The Metropolitan Opera stage union has reacted angrily to a Wall Street Journal article about their pay and conditions:
From Today’s Wall Street Journal about the Metropolitan Opera:
Eric Gibson’s half-true “facts” exemplify the sort of Peter Gelb reasoning that will cause the Metropolitan Opera to lose its coming season (“A Modern Opera: Fat Unions May Kill the Fat Lady,” op-ed, June 28).
Of course 66% of the budget goes to labor. Labor (the singers and instrumentalists who are the opera) is 100% of the reason people buy tickets to opera. Who else should the money go to—Peter Gelb’s chauffeur’s salary?
The chorus does not have “nine weeks” off. After a vacation of five weeks, during which they rest and replenish their voices (unlike every other worker in the world, their “tools” can’t be replaced when worn out), there are four weeks of compensatory time (an old Met-proposed cost savings which compensates them for the 33 weekends and four national holidays they have to work, an actual total of seven weeks) during which they self-rehearse the new productions for the following season.
The chorus doesn’t get paid for work not done. They’re guaranteed four shows a week, but Mr. Gelb schedules them for five or six every week, with 13-hour days, every day. The chorus doesn’t get paid for wearing their shoes during lunch. The $45 “costume lunch fee” is an old Met-proposed way to save $128 per chorister for otherwise required on-the-clock costume changes.
And obviously none of the Met’s labor expense goes to the unions. It goes to the performers who make the opera.
Peter Gelb’s legacy is one of waste, excess and extravagance, and a box office in free fall, which is bankrupting the Met. He refuses to change or to program what ticket buyers want to see. The conclusion is unavoidable that the only way in which to save the Met is to replace Peter Gelb.
Alan Gordon, Executive Director, American Guild of Musical Artists, AFL-CIO