Maxim Gershunoff, the veteran New York manager and presenter, reflects on Peter Gelb’s early career. We cannot vouch for the pinpoint accuracy of every last detail, but the general picture is correct. Mr Gershunoff was writing in response to a New York Times soft-soap piece on the Metropolitan Opera manager.
As a 90 year-old, and former VP in the offices of the late, great impresario, Sol Hurok who used and risked his own funds for his dreams of presentation, may I submit herewith a bit of history relevant to your remarks re Peter Gelb.
Peter Gelb got his first job as an office boy through Martin Feinstein. As the head of the publicity department for Hurok, Feinstein, granting a favor, happily obliged Arthur Gelb, Managing Editor of The New York Times back then, and gave Gelb’s boy a job in the publicity office.
Shortly after, Hurok Concerts, Inc. was sold to General Electric. The major innovation GE would bring to its newly purchased subsidiary would be the televising of a prestigious Hurok subscription concert series to movie houses throughout the country. Technological problems prevailed and the project was abandoned. With technology having advanced in over three decades, Peter Gelb recalled what might have been and, although not his original concept, revived the idea for the Metropolitan Opera.
Gelb went from the Hurok office to work as a publicity account functionary at Gurtman and Murtha, publicists and artists managers. Peter’s godfather, legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz, came along for the ride to Gurtman and Murtha. Peter Gelb’s career path was quite liberally and literally strewn with the softening effect of rose petals.
He next was elevated to directing publicity at the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the fortuitous time of its highly publicized visit to China. Some time in the ’70s, Ronald Wilford, President of Columbia Artists Management, Inc. was glad to employ young Gelb in CAMI’s office, surely pleasing Gelb père once again.
After that position, Gelb went on to SONY Records and when it looked like he was about to lose that job, the Gelb family friend Beverly Sills interceded and promoted Gelb with the Metropolitan Opera Board of Directors. Hired as Managing Director with the responsibility of artistic direction, as well, Peter Gelb has been less than cautious, if not ignorant, of his fiduciary obligations, relying too heavily on large scale donations to bail him out of budgeting problems.
At this juncture, needing a scapegoat he points his bookkeeping problems to the costs of the unions failing to admit to his own ineptitude in dealing with the Met’s multi-million annual costs. Still further, as a manager without prior experience, he proves incapable of negotiating with the unions in question; first threatening a lockout of all the Met’s union employees. Now, finally, he looks to the intercession of a Federal mediator to function as the Met’s manager and jump start a beginning to perhaps the end of his current problems which he alone created. In the immortal words of Chester A. Riley: “What a revolting development this is.”