In a response to today’s wishy-washy editorial, urging both sides to compromise in forthcoming talks, musicians of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra say the New York Times was quoting salary figures that Peter Gelb had refused to release to them – and which are, therefore, unsubstantiated.

Full statement follows. See also How Met musicians left Gelb for dead.


NEW YORK, NY—Monday, June 23, 2014The MET Orchestra Musicians and Local 802, American Federation of Musicians, are deeply concerned about the future of the Metropolitan Opera.

Regarding today’s editorial in the New York Times, The MET Orchestra would like to clarify a few important points:

    • The Met musicians are paid a competitive contract, a yearly salary that is commensurate with attracting and retaining the best players in the world. The musicians in fact do not have 16 weeks of vacation. Their guaranteed time off is equivalent to that of their peer orchestras (10 weeks), and is in part due to the recognition that they are at the disposal of the Met to perform 6 days a week during the season. Unutilized weeks are due to Peter Gelb’s unpopular and counter-productive decision to end the beloved weeks of free summer concerts in New York City’s parks, which musicians still wish to play (and besides being a wonderful amenity for New Yorkers and visitors are a proven vehicle to expand the opera audience), as well as Gelb’s termination of the practice of touring, which has been a part of the Met season since its inception and also develops tourist audiences for the Met


    • Peter Gelb insists on citing an average salary number for musicians that has not been substantiated. The musicians and their legal team have been asking for months for the Met to provide figures showing where they are getting this average salary number, as well as the amount of stated benefits, but the Met has not provided it. We do not know if the Met provided proof to the Times, and we respectfully request that any press covering these matters ask Gelb for documentation to support this disputed figure. Furthermore, we ask that the press consider citing the median salary for the musicians, as this would more accurately represent what most musicians at the Met are paid – if you can get the data from management!


    • It is true, as the New York Times states, that The Met cannot continue on its present fiscal course. However, it is relevant to note that over Gelb’s tenure the cost of musician labor has risen only modestly (slightly above inflation), while the non-labor budget increased by 50% ($105 Million). As the musicians pointed out in theirreport to the Met Opera Board the revivals of Peter Gelb’s new productions, which have sold dismally, are pulling revenues down. In fact, when other opera houses around the world are thriving, there has been a 13% drop at the Met box office on Peter Gelb’s watch.


  • Given that last year the Met reported a $2.8 Million dollar deficit why does Gelb claim he needs $30 million in cuts (16%) to performers who are already being paid less than musicians in several other U.S. orchestras, in some cases in absolute dollars or, when calculating the cost-of-living to compensation ratio, less than their counterparts at most peer orchestras? Also, importantly, research conducted by the Orchestra indicates that the various cuts that Gelb has proposed actually constitute a reduction in compensation much greater than 16%, but in fact would constitute a 25-37% reduction in compensation.

For a busy international soprano, Tamar Iveri’s diary is surprisingly bare.

Between now and Christmas, all she has listed is a role debut and eight performances as Tosca.


In Melbourne, with Opera Australia.

tamar iveri otello

 Seán Curran, founder of the Seán Curran Company, will become chair of NYU Tisch School of the Arts Department of Dance this fall.




A brief comment we passed some days ago on the appearance of two classical artists’ agents in the Queen’s honour list has provoked an eruption on Classical Music magazine from Andrew Green, a former agent and historian of agents, who feels they are, as a class, upstanding and altogether well-deserving members of society.

The nub of his argument?The concert scene around the world would grind to a halt overnight without the artist manager.’

To which we say, oh, yeah? We’re prepared to bet a Solti souvenir pen to an Abbado signed tie that life would go on just as well without them.

Meanwhile, we happen to live among wonderful people who work day and night saving lives, feeding the hungry, comforting the bereaved, caring for orphans, all without thought of reward or thanks. And a pair of agents waltz away with state honours.



That’s the thesis of Terry Grimley’s new book about the building of Symphony Hall, Birmingham.

The European Commission had told the city that its Regional Development Fund could not be used to build a concert hall. So they called it a convention centre. And Europe turned a blind eye. Details here.



After a recent flurry of activity about Mieczyslaw Weinberg, I was about to give him a rest when – what do you know? – two world premiere recordings landed on my deck. Both extraordinarily fascinating, one Judeo-Christian, the other Judeo-Polish. Click here for my album of the week on sinfinimusic.

weinberg late

Five days ago, Slippedisc and other media outlets received the following email from a ‘concerned opera lover’  in Australia:

I’m not sure if you’re all aware that Opera Australia has employed the Georgian soprano Tamar Iveri to sing the role of Desdemona in the upcoming production of Otello in spite of the fact that she has publicly declared herself to be a homophobe. Paris Opera cancelled her contract based on the open letter she sent to the President of Georgia
There are many disgruntled staff at OA.
tamar iveri otello

Anonymous emails are not, on the whole, credible sources.

The link given in the email was over a year old and the Paris allegation could not be verified. The mailshot looked as if jealous individuals in a notably unhappy opera company were seeking to dislodge an unpopular, highly-paid foreign visitor.

Such things cannot be verified swiftly at distance.

An Australian website went public with the contents of the email and the resultant public outcry led to Ms Iveri’s dismissal – which had clearly been the intention of the anonymous mailer.

In view of the appalling nature of the views expressed on Ms Iveri’s website, that was the correct and inevitable outcome. However, the reasons Ms Iveri was targeted in Australia are neither transparent nor honourable.

This was not a principled campaign against prejudice but a petty turf war, fought behind cover of anonymity. Many in the opera world are left feeling squeamish – not by the ultimately justifiable dismissal of Ms Iveri but by the shadowy, xenophobic motives behind it.

Several have contacted us today to express unease at the ‘lynching’ of a fellow-artist. Altogether, this has been an unedifying episode in the march to gender parity and equal rights in the arts.


Tamar Iveri, removed from next month’s Otello for her apparently homophobic views, has reverted to Facebook to express her regrets. She maintains that words, published on her Facebook page a year ago about a gay parade in her native Georgia, did not represent her personal views and were, in any event, mistranslated and taken out of context. She insists her husband wrote them.

Here is her statement:

tamar iveri otello



I came to Australia last season and made my debut here in Sydney in Un Ballo in Maschera. It was one of the most lovely experiences in my career. Then and now I came to sing for all the people who would like to hear me, and there is no one whom I would ever wish to exclude. However as much as I was looking forward to singing Desdemona in this season’s new production of Otello.

I have now decided to withdraw from the cast. As difficult as it has been to come to this decision, I do so out out of consideration for the tranquillity of my colleagues and for the success of the production.

By withdrawing , I wish to insure that the performances take place undisturbed by any further controversy.. I do not want such an important artistic event to be marred by any problem which, however unintentionally, has developed because of my presence in the cast.

I also must say that I am immensely saddened and hurt by the campaign which is now being mounted against me. I have never been prejudiced against anyone, whether for religious, or racial reasons, or for any other kind of prejudice including those regarding sexual preference. I abhor prejudice in any form altogether. I have been performing in an art form that includes thousands of gay people on both sides of the stage, and there is no one who can come forward and claim that I have ever exhibited any such prejudice against them.

I have said before and say here again that the words attributed to me were not my own, and that I therefore cannot take personal responsibility for them. I can only repeat again and again that this is my position. I also want to make clear once more that my concerns last year about the Parade for Gay Rights in Tbilisi were not based on any opposition to the rights of gay people everywhere; rather they were founded by my fears that he the parade would arouse a violent reaction from parts of the arch-conservative Georgian religious community. Unfortunately this is exactly what did happen ,as those participating the parade were criminally attacked by such elements.

The award, founded in 2012, honours the executive producer – not the director – of the past year’s best opera production.

This years shortlist consisted of:

John Berry for Wozzeck at English National Opera;

Jurgen Flimm for The Tsar’s Bride, Staatsoper Berlin;

Eva Wagner-Pasquier, Katharina Wagner for Walküre, Bayreuth Festival; and

Gerard Mortier for Purcell’s Indian Queen at the Teatro Royal, Madrid.

‘The International Jury decided to abandon a vote for the shortlisted projects. Instead, the prize was awarded to Gerard Mortier for his enormous contribution to the arts and for his outstanding role in the development of musical theatre. The prize money will fund the Russian publication of his book, Dramaturgie einer Leidenschaft,’ a manifesto-cum-memoir.


Mortier died in March, aged 70.

He’s being sued by the orchestra president for saying, two years ago, that ‘a bunch of crooks dressed in $3,000 suits came in who didn’t know a thing about the music business.’

Peter Nero, 80, music director emeritus of the Philly Pops, now says he didn’t really mean that.

Frank Giordano, the orchestra president, last week launched a $75,000 defamation suit against him. A statement from Nero’s lawyer’s office said:  ‘I recognize that I perhaps should have been more careful. I apologize for that conversation and some of the statements I made. I did not mean to cause harm nor offend.’

Course he didn’t.

peter nero

What’s impressive is a conductor who can tell a $3,000 suit from a $300 one.

The following messages appeared this morning on Ayatollah Khamenei’s twitter feed.

Like all celebrity tweets, they were almost certainly not by the man himself. Nor do they constitute a particularly profound contribution on his part to World Music Day.

But they do reflect a fundamentalist mindset that is worth understanding.

Here are the tweets:





You know that I’m anti-western, yet by reasoning I confirm the positive qualities of West; one of which is issue of .


It’s true that in West there’s decadent for dancing & debauchery,but instructive &meaningful music also have long existed there.


Apart from decadent ,there’re some types of music in West that a wise transcendental person can enjoy it in concerts.


In West,there’s no shortage of that saved a nation or led intellectual groups 2the right path;West had &currently has such qualities.


Instead of using in course of moral decadence,direct it towards noble goals; if so,music can be called holy.


What the Ayatollah seems to want is more Beethoven and Verdi, less Bieber and Lady Gaga. Nothing wrong with that.

Hours after the Monnaie theatre in Brussels announced that it was cancelling her contract for next season, Tamar Iveri was ‘released’ from singing Desdemona at Opera Australia in two weeks time.  A replacement has yet to be announced.

‘Opera Australia has reached agreement with Ms Iveri to immediately release her from her contract with the company,’ read the Facebook statement. ‘Opera Australia believes the views as stated to be unconscionable.’

Ms Iveri posted an abusive anti-gay statement on her Facebook page a year ago. Today, she added a statement of regret for her dismissal.


tamar iveri

Ms Iveri’s career is now in jeopardy. She is represented by Zemsky/Green management, whose roster includes such outstanding sopranos as Anja Harteros, Kristine Opolais, Eva Maria Westbroek and Pretty Yende. Their damage control mechanisms have not functioned well this weekend.


UPDATE: How an opera turf war blew into a world furore. Click here.