Two Covent Garden chiefs earn over £250,000

A tweet from Rupert Christiansen prompts us to take a closer look at the Royal Opera House accounts for the year ended 31 August 2014, the more so in light of Peter Gelb’s inflated salary at the Metropolitan Opera.

What we find is that Sir Antonio Pappano took home just under £539,000 ($840k), which is not far out of line for a hard-working music director in his 14th year of service. Pappano draws a second salary at Santa Cecilia in Rome.

Larger than expected were the next two highest earners. Kasper Holten, head of opera, pulls down just under £289,000 and Alex Beard, the chief executive, just over £250,000.

That is still less than one-sixth of Gelb’s whack, but it’s creeping up.

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  • Salaries in de semi-public sector in The Netherlands are capped at 178.000 euros gross (and taxed at around 52%). This includes pension payments and expenses. It also includes any extra work that directors undertake for other (semi) public funded institutions.

  • For Holten and Pappano, of course, some of that (a high proportion in Pappano’s case) is not exactly salary but is separately contracted for directing and conducting and is variable season to season.

  • But we can argue about intendant and music director salaries all we like. The issue Rupert Christiansen was trying to highlight was the paltry salaries paid lower down in arts organisations and the struggle of those staff to gain even token raises. It’s a problem throughout the subsidised arts sector in the UK – where devoted and skilled non-performing employees typically earn less than £25k a year and huge workloads (60-hour weeks are not unusual) are shouldered by recent graduates or “interns” on salaries well below £20k (and in some cases, entirely unpaid).

    Whatever the relative merits of performers and senior staff, it’s hard to stomach that public money is being dispensed so inequitably within arts organisations. None of them is a commercial concern; none of them turns a profit. The case for some employees to be earning over half a million per year – and in some cases to receive rises while those at the bottom of the pile are forced onto pay freezes is, morally, pretty questionable. BECTU is one of the few ways through which the “little people” of arts admin can make their voice heard and it’s commendable of Christiansen to point this out.

    • That is the greatest paradox from the whole point Norman is trying to make. You want world class organizations, but you want to pay the administrators of those organizations like a McDonald’s worker? Talent is going to run through the door faster than you can say Shostakovich.

      There is a HUGE HR problem in the whole of the arts. Essentially, the entire industry is run by artists who saw the prospects of 25K a year a secure paycheck for lack of opportunities in orchestras or other performance-based occupations. Some stick around, rise through the ranks, but there’s little (if any) career development opportunities, and a great lack of diversity in both talent and skill (and workforce!). Having lived in NY, I have witnessed how some organizations (even the important ones) have a silent policy of hiring only white, blonde, former musicians (and even these, have to be from certain schools – your usual suspects) as interns or assistants. Nobody talks about this, not even this blog, but it is out there.

      Pretty much any other industry fosters diversity as a core source of new ideas/innovation/talent. Why is the arts as it is? Maybe it is the people running it.

  • Below are some examples of other high salaries for arts executives in 2009, as reported in the New York Times in 2010. I suspect recent numbers are considerably higher.

    Part of the problem is that with America’s private funding system, organizations become inordinately dependent on high paid administrators who can wheedle money out of the wealthy. They also have to head huge, expensive “development departments” who have to reinvent the funding wheel every year. The public funding system used by Europeans is far more efficient. This means lower pay for administration and more art for the public.

    * Reynold Levy’s annual compensation to run Lincoln Center tops $1 million.
    * Carnegie Hall pays Clive Gillinson more than $800,000.
    * Glenn D. Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, earned $2.7 million in the year that ended in June 2008, including several one-time bonuses and the cost of his apartment in the tower beside the museum.
    * Occasionally institutions will also pay bonuses tied to performance or longevity, like the $3.25 million given in 2006 to Philippe de Montebello to recognize his 30-year service to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (His aristocratic name fits well with America’s neo-feudalistic form of arts funding.)
    * On top of his $940,000 salary, Michael Kaiser of the Kennedy Center earned a $150,000 bonus, as well as other benefits, for 2009.
    * Zarin Mehta’s compensation, for fiscal year 2010, is $807,500. In the fiscal year ending in August 2008 he earned 2.67 million. This reflected his salary in addition to eight years of accumulated deferred compensation.
    * Timothy Rub, the director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art earns $450,00.
    * George Steel, the general manager and artistic director of New York City Opera received $360,000 – and from an opera house shut down its next season due to a lack of funds.

    Deborah Borda, Executive Director of the LA Phil currently makes 1.8 million per year. She’s paid more the Dudamel.

    • Your mention of George Steel, who made a bad situation worse at NYC Opera and then tried to claim credit for his “prudent” financial stewardship makes this whole situation even more ironic. I presently look at up and coming companies like Opera Philadelphia, Santa Fe Opera, Glimmerglass Festival and Minneapolis Opera as the future in the United States. All of these companies are willing to spend, especially on new commissions or daring productions (Silent NIght, Yardbird and the Washington/Minneapolis/Philadelphia Nabucco) rather than stick with the more traditional repertory produced in some of the most outrageous settings. Forward looking managers like Francesca Zambello and David Devan will drive opera forward. Bean counters like George Steel and sensationalists like Peter Gelb will hold opera back.

    • Probably too much money has been donated to institutions. Donators should sponsor particular projects, not institutions.

      • Institutions need donations to pay artists like choristers and orchestra musicians as well as artistic staff such as stage managers, set and lighting designers and other in-house employees. A more prudent way of donating to companies is to divide the gift between institutional needs and individual productions.

  • So, according to Norman, the Most important administrative opera post in the UK should pay how much? We should cap it?

    Thats obviously going to attract administrative talent, in a moment in which – as he mentions – the industry is in a state of disarray.

  • Wonder what the general public in Britain would think if they know. They’re complaining about the MPs and the Prime Minister getting less than 100,000 year to run the country!

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