Peter Gelb: Met staff are ‘not realistically compensated’

Peter Gelb: Met staff are ‘not realistically compensated’


norman lebrecht

September 09, 2016

From an interview with the September issue of Opera Now magazine:

It’s what keeps me up at night… It’s knowing that we have an incredibly proud and successful workforce, but one that is not realistically compensated.

He goes on to say: We have to be constantly looking at expenses because revenue is more or less stuck.

Sounds insoluble.


peter gelb1


  • Olassus says:

    Sounds like he should go.

    • Janet lee D says:

      As the family member of a former board member at the formerly Great Metropolitan Opera Association, I am neither under any kind of confidentiality agreement with Mr. Gelb nor am I going to hold my peace about this issue anymore.

      In fact, Norman Lebrecht in his issue dated November 11, 2004 actually foretold exactly the consequences of the ” back room” deal that was made with the Met in hiring a failed film maker/ SONY honcho/ son of a famous New York Times Senior editor.

      He described Peter GELB as ” spectacularly unqualified to run an opera house.”

      He was right then and in fact, Peter GELB is systematically destroying this countries greatest opera house: a National Treasure.

      Peter GELB complains that the UNIONS are to blame: employees who for the record during a typical Met season are committed to a six day work week from between 16-18 hours door to door and including grabbed lunch/ dinner in the cafeteria ( between daily rehearsals for upcoming productions and nightly performances which change weekly with huge scenic change overs ). He suggests they take even more pay cuts .

      Peter Gelbs salary is over TWO MILLION DOLLARS.
      If, due to his incompetence the Met does fail, I am certain he will have a splendid golden parachute to soften his fall as employees families lives fall apart. The typical Wall Street corporate mentally that has now gobbled up
      even this ” not for profit” performing arts theater.

      During the last contentious contract negotiations with the Met labor force, Mr. GELB made it clear that a lock out was imminent if his terms were not met. These terms included a huge pay cut, catastrophic changes to medical benefits ( disastrous to a labor force who, to a one, depend entirely on their healthy physicality to perform their job).

      The orchestra researched very carefully the statistics of Peter Gelbs ” new productions”.
      The entire labor force united to present attorneys with hard data proving that Mr. Gelbs ” business model” Does Not Work. In fact, it is detrimental to the success of the company. The performers can look off the stage at night to see an smattering of audience members again and again, in shows that people just don’t want to see again. How many productions can one company have that are comprised of a big black/ white/ wall box and a big couch ? And now, the new Tristan set … Black with OIL DRUMS?
      It’s rubbish . They haven’t done crap like this in Europe for 30 years and PG thinks this is good? ” I’d rather loose a million on a movie than make $10,000.00 on little shit ” is an old quote but if all he wants to do is make films then he should LEAVE THE MET AND GO AND MAKE THEM.

      The Metropolitan Opera house is for GRAND OPERA . As beloved as the Board of directors are by the labor force they must do DUE DILIGENCE ON THIS MAN.
      They must start listening to the people who who work there for information and facts or sadly they are culpable in the demise of this art form in America.


  • Nick says:

    Has been sounding like a stuck old 78 LP record for too many years. How many more similar utterances will we have to suffer before he is forced out?

  • Nigel Sparks says:

    The first question that I would ask Mr. Gelb, following his remark, sited above, would be, “Are you, Peter Gelb, “realistically compensated”?

    Peter Gelb at the Met will be a never ending saga of subterfuge and smoke screens. He has, himself, made it more than clear that he can not solve the crisis there. This new soundbite, saying that the staff at the Met are not “realistically compensated” is yet another trick to prepare employees for drastic salary cuts. He must include himself in this action. He, like most all of his counterparts in the decrepit U.S. arts world, are grossly overpaid and don’t seem to understand that they are not investment bankers, nor hedge fund managers, but rather directors of non-profits that live on donors and an ever shrinking endowment. The greed of people in the U.S. is sickening, on so many levels. They are headed for the dustbin of history in any case, as the levels of decadence and self interest are now blown out of all proportion.

  • V.Lind says:

    When revenue is stuck, and your hall is half empty half the time, you are doing something wrong.

    • John Kelly says:

      This is correct. While I concur with Mr. Gelb that you can’t manage profitability from the top line (meaning rely on more revenue) if you seek to either make money or break even (neither of which he’s managed), you have to manage expenses (something he also doesn’t do by the way) – and fair compensation is important. I would read his comments as the Prelude to a Layoff………….since he’s basically saying we aren’t paying people enough. Same money to fewer souls sort of fixes that for the souls that are saved………….

      However, revenue is NOT “fixed” and any senior executive who even intimates such a thing wouldn’t be working for me for more than about another thirty seconds……………lack of imagination?

  • Bruce says:

    Maybe he means they are unrealistically over-compensated.

    • V.Lind says:

      That was my take.

    • jaxon says:

      Depends on whether we’re talking about the $40K/year marketing staff or the $180K/year stagehands.

      • NYMike says:

        Try being a stagehand and working your butt off during the night changing sets, shipping stuff in and out of the house besides working during the shows before you comment on their wages.

        • jaxon says:

          Oh, yes, I forgot. They and only they earn every penny of their absurdly inflated salaries.

          • Louie Val says:

            Jaxon we were introduced a few years ago at one of the Met’s long gone Christmas parties. I’m a stagehand and I remember that you work for the Met’s Supernumery dept. I’m offended that you think I make to much money. My seventeen hour day consists of being part of one of the Greatest Crews putting on one of the Grandest Operas in the world. This has to be worth something. Unlike your job standing on stage during the performance of The Barber of Seville with the Jackass.

      • Louie Val says:


        Nobody is complaining about your measly $10,000 annual salary working for the Met’s Supmernumero dept. By the way! We all know about your 9 million dollar trust fund gifted to you by Mr’s Z.

      • PJ Volpe says:

        Jaxon I don’t know where you get your information from. I make four times as much as you say the average stagehand makes over 500K annually. I don’t even have to stand next to the Jackass on stage I just stand on stage with my hands in my pocket. Life is good thanks Dad.

  • Interested Party says:

    I’m a repetiteur and staff conductor based in London and working in most major houses here in the UK, as well as across Europe, and I can tell you that our counterparts at the Met (a couple of whom are friends) are far more ‘realistically compensated’ than we are over here… If their salaries are representative of the rest of the house, I think they’re doing fine… He needs to say this to keep the unions at bay, but I think it’s a little harsh to suggest it is Gelb’s own fault that he is unable to match his staff members’ salaries with those of bankers and lawyers. When the work we do is valued by society, salaries will increase.

  • Richard says:

    The more Gelb opens his mouth, it continues to be clear that he is totally incompetent. He is in over his head, has no idea of what is going on and unable to articulate a plan to address the problems at hand. The sad part is that he is backed by a board that appears to be as incompetent and irresponsible as he.

  • M2N2K says:

    Trying to figure out whether “not realistically” means over (limited budget?) or under (NY cost of living?), I wanted to see the full text of this interview, but could not find it anywhere. It certainly is not in “the September [2016] issue of Opera News magazine” which is in front of me at this very moment. Couldn’t find it online either. Do you have exclusive early access to the next (October) issue?

  • Ross says:

    Those of you who despise Gelb should speak to the individuals who put him there, and are keeping him there. They must disagre with you.
    Oh yea, you can’t blame them because they are ultra wealthy individuals who make the opera possible.
    So fine, ok, it’s all Gelb’s fault. The ultra wealthy probably prefer it this way, by which their front man takes the heat.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    Gelb is most certainly being overpaid.
    He’s a dilettante, an interloper and a coffee gofer with a grudge.

    • Janet Lee says:

      Thank you ! Peter Gelb is at best a narcissist and at worst a sociopath. He has no regard for the employees of what used to be the finest opera house in the world. Mr. Gelb drove Sony Classical into bankruptcy and if the board of directors at the Met ( ANN ZIFF MERCEDES BASS ? Hello? ) do not intervene, and soon, he will do the same thing to the Metropolitan Opera House. NO ONE comes to the Met to see Peter Gelb. Met Opera labor are what IS THE SHOW! For heavens sake, the crew, the artists on stage and the musicians in the pit are the product. Why has the board sanctioned a salary of over 2 ‘million dollars to a video man, in a NOT FOR PROFIT organization while HE in turn cuts their salaries and benefits as they continue to deliver on every one of his projects? Just because his productions don’t draw audiences doesn’t mean the artists are culpable ! It’s bad management .
      If the MetOpera were a for profit organization Gelb would have been fired years ago .

  • Spencer Lee says:

    The Ballet Company that works within The Metropolitan Opera was the oldest ballet company in the United States. Peter Gelb dissembled it a few years ago, firing ALL the permanent dancers. Now dancers are only hired part-time for hourly wages. Sometimes they are required to hold an entire week open for possible rehearsals and are then only called in for 2 hours of work = $100. On an average week they might make about $400-$600 dollars with irregular schedules and no benefits. Peter Gelb’s salary alone, if divided up, could provided stable 50K jobs for 42 dancers.