NY Times to Met unions: Cut the rhetoricmain
In an otherwise thoughtful piece on the new-production aspect of the Metropolitan Opera dispute, chief music critic Anthony Tommasini has a typically wimpish conclusion: On the whole, one hopes that the unions will tone down the rhetoric. In his public statements, Mr. Gelb has consistently praised the artists and technicians at the Met, whereas many company members have denigrated their boss as overbearing and clueless. How can these put-downs not engender serious doubts about the Met among the very public the company needs to court right now? Never mind that the Times is, as usual, way behind the Times. There has not been a peep from the unions, or any of their outspoken members, since the federal mediators stepped in at the weekend. A nervous peace prevails. The false note here is Tommasini’s blind eye. Here’s what he failed to point out: – Peter Gelb has spent way over his budget. – He admits that box-office and donations have fallen way below target. – But Gelb blames high wages for the deficit and demands that the people who make the music take a 17 percent cut. Are they supposed to remain silent while Gelb threatens them with a lockout, loss of health cover for their sick children and a period of existential difficulty? What Tomassini ignores is that the Met dispute has become, in part, a discussion of Peter Gelb’s competence to run a major opera house. The unions – the musicians, especially – have raised serious factual doubts on that score. They were also right to question Gelb’s handling of human relations, never his strongest point. When the dispute is over, Gelb will be on probation to see whether he can restore financial stability. The musicians will play on.