Latest: More heads will roll at the Met

Latest: More heads will roll at the Met


norman lebrecht

September 29, 2017

A few more things you will not read in the New York Times:

We’ve been hearing from a very deep throat how Peter Gelb strategised his attack on Met staff. According to our source, he targeted employees near retirement age and offered them an early retirement package, saying ‘take this now or your job may disappear in a restructuring and if that happens you will get nothing.’

This is prima facie age discrimination, sacking people for reasons of age. Employees who received the offer say it is not very good. It involves a monthly payout sum, with insurance paid up only until next May.

Then what? Where will ex-Met employees get their meds? And where will they get another job? They are too old to retrain as baristas.

Gary Feinstein was not the only director who was fired. There are many levels of director at the Met. Susan Hayes, also fired, is senior to him. Ronnie Brown is another director who was fired. Anthony Marinelli who works closely with the mailhouses and makes sure the pamphlets and brochures make it out on time and with the correct information. Danny Valdes, head of house management, has been here for 30 years.

Our source adds: They do plan to fire a total of 50. The first 21 are people the Met thought should get some sort of severance package to soften the PR blow. The next 29 will get nothing.




  • Ungeheuer says:

    Worth repeating: The crisis is far worse than acknowledged, what with the disappearance of stars, vocal stars at that, of important voices and artists. The elephant in the room. Of course, the burden of the collapse of important artists and voices does not rest on Gelb’s shoulders. Little to nothing the man (or any other intendant) can do to quell the epidemic. Sad times.

    • G_ says:

      Very true.
      Ignorant managers making the classical music world into another shit-mass-producing enterprise, together with Regietheater and other disastrous ideas from the artistic “avant-garde”, which wanted to deliberately ruin everything, lead directly to what is here witnessed.
      And then such people wonder why institutions like the met reach such a low, and don’t understand WHY is the public so disinterested.
      This is a symptom of a large cultural epidemic, caused exactly by the people who were supposed to protect from it.

      You ruined everything, idiots.

    • Boris Sanchez says:

      The irony is, the ‘quality’ of performers is probably better than its been in 20+ years, but no stars are being made. No matter how much the Met wants it, Michael Fabiano isn’t going to be a ‘star’

  • Respect says:

    This practice of age discrimination has become endemic in the United States, picking up ones career after 50 is a frightening prospect for even high level artists. Many of these people have high level resumes that in theory should enable them to find work, but its daunting, given the easy acceptance of discriminatory practice in this political environment. But one question: he’s got to find cuts, where. Would you suggest? He can’t go back to the unions.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Well we could start with NOT BUYING antiques to be used in stage productions. Or spending $30,000 on a sofa, and then deciding the piece isn’t right, and spending another $30,000 for a different sofa.
      How about that?

    • Ben says:

      Age discrimination is widespread. I know many senior managers have asked Human Resource to throw out resume of any candidate who shows 10+ years of work experience.

      Meanwhile, big corporations like IBM outsource their near-pension senior employees to “axe” sub-contract firms, which simple keep them a few months, then chop them off payroll as they are too “inexperienced”. Minimal severance, no chance of lawsuit (their tenure is too short in their payroll history, so they are “inexperienced junior”), while IBM saves big by avoiding pension altogether.

      Well, at least, U.S. resume doesn’t require a photo attached to the resume like in many other countries. In Asia, for example, one cannot even get an interview if the photo isn’t photogenic enough.

  • Olassus says:

    Aren’t all of these people “at-will” employees, thus entitled to nothing, not even notice or explanation, and subject to being escorted out by security staff, as is the fashion nowadays?

    • Deborah says:

      Correct. What the Met is doing is typical corporate layoff procedure. It happened to me when BMG and Sony Music merged and we didn’t know if Peter Gelb was taking over the label. I initially accepted the early retirement package because I knew that coming from the BMG side, Mr. Gelb would most likely not have kept me on. Luckily I was able to reverse that when he ended up taking over the MET. But I was subsequently laid off two years later with NO RETIREMENT package offer but did get a decent severance package (after 28 years of service!). However, you are correct. These companies owe their employees nothing legally.

  • Ben says:

    I applaud Peter “Lumbergh” Gelb’s inventive arts management style: If you cannot earn enough money to feed your body, just cut off your limbs so your body needs less food to survive.



  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    I believe that the Met. holds 4,000 people that ‘s an awful lot of people to find eight times a week even if only 60% are budgeted for. Perhaps they will have to somehow rejig the whole building and make two smaller auditoria?

    • RW2013 says:

      The Deutsche Oper in Berlin has on occasion closed the second balcony when they predict that the house won’t be full enough.

  • Edgar says:

    Gelbdämmerung. It will come when the Met burns down with him. So be it.

  • Sue says:

    Are you saying the New York Times writes fake news? Come on now; pull the other one!!

  • DCK says:

    These employees need to take a lesson from Lucine Amara. She filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights alleging discrimination in employment on the basis of age when, notwithstanding that she was the contracted first cover when the soprano canceled, the Met allegedly refused to allow her to perform because she was too old (51).

    The Met and Ms. Amara settled. She subsequently sang at the Met.

  • Ghost of Joe says:

    left of the list of people forced out a few months ago.. – – Head of the electric construction shop -Tony Giovannettii. And Over all in charge of house management – Jim Naples and the word around the water cooler has it that Head Stage Carpenter – Steve Diaz will be gone shortly. All three of them at or near retirement age and told not to talk about the exit packages.
    For a on going business that is in very poor finical shape the Met is planning a lot a MAJOR/big dollars changes to the theater – Replacement of the system for flying and moving scenery, relocation of the electronics that Drive/control that system from a room SR to the roof of the building. And the early stages of planning seems to have begone on the remodel of the front lobby of the theater and all the electrical work involved in doing that.
    The over all vibe of the management of the crews has gone down hill bring about a era of fear and unhappiness to the crews working in the trenches on a day to day bases. These crews are made up of men and women who in most cases have given up what most people would consider a normal life in order to breath life in the the Mets production – For the Crews it’s not just the $ earned working the Mets productions. If you look at the number of hours the tech people work on a Hourly base you would see that hourly pay rate is rather low === Perhaps the tech crew labor rates are not to high but the Met is buying more Labor than they can afford. The warehouses and storage container are loaded with old production in the GRAND OPERA STYLE. Maybe the time has come to produce a RETRO SEASON using them. Even with rehab to those set it would save on costs and have a good shot at Teaching / showing what OPERA is about with out all the razzle dazzle that new production use – Because after all is said and done it’s about the singing!

    • John Diaz says:

      Spot On : ) I agree with you one hundred and ten percent. The Met has plenty of money to spend on all of those new fangled technological systems. The reason for all of the bells and whistles is the world just doesn’t have great singers anymore. Peters idea to draw people in is coming up with a new Gag for each new production. You know some magical event that happens during the show some special effect like the Robert Lepage Ring Cycle also known as the ATM Machine to make up for the lack of talent. These Gags can cost hundreds and thousands of dollars to create. Most of the time these are exclusively made for the Met’s Hd broadcasts. If your lucky you might be able to see them from the first three rows. When it comes to the stage crew the Met cries poverty. These men work minimum 16 hour days sometimes risking their well being trying not to break another hour. Osha would have a field day if they spent a few days observing these working conditions especially on a Saturday changeover. Peter should seriously think about turning the Met’s property into a three ring circus. He would serve well as the circus master. I believe he would also be able to keep his HD company alive.

  • herrera says:

    Has it ever occur to people that the Met administration was BLOATED to begin with by 50, 75, 100 jobs?

    If it was fiscally irresponsible for Gelb to create those posts in the first place, would it have been more fiscally responsible for him to maintain them until all the employees retired from those jobs?

    The Met ain’t the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, where once you land a job pushing paper, you get to stay until you die, and all it has to do is raise fees for licenses each year by 20% because you ain’t got no other choices…

    • timbits says:

      I promise the Met does not have 50 extra people on its administrative staff.

      If 50 positions are eliminated, everyone else’s job will get MUCH harder and the overall level of the product will drop.

  • harold braun says:

    In Germany this happens each time when a new Intendant comes in,and it involves all non union artistic staff,singers,pianists,repetiteurs,conductors.So what…

    • d90 says:

      I think the difference being though that in Germany many of those people (though not all, some are non-EU citizens there on Visas, who have to go back if they don’t find work) have some semblance of government support to help them get through the tough patch, for example the Hartz IV program.

  • Bill Ecker says:

    Danny Valdes wife Cindy was my assistant at Springs Industries back in the 1990’s. I’ve known Danny for years and it would be hard to find a more dedicated employee in that opera house. The problem is, Gelb bloated the house when he came in with the largest number of managers ever employed at the MET. He hired them in at salaries higher than had ever been paid for similar jobs in the House. He changed inane things like their font at great expense. Then he took over the gift shop which had been run by the Guild for years to benefit the MET. That shop which had recently undergone a renovation went through another expensive renovation and started carrying tsochchkes no one cared about and walked the shop opera buffs who bought there. I know this for a fact as I supplied autographs there on consignment and when they sold, they did not live up to our contractual agreements and were paying for items they sold and never spent a dime on in 120 days rather than the 14 days they agreed to and 30 days I was willing to accept. I pulled my material when they would not pay their bills in a timely fashion and that was years ago. That shop has been a loser since Gelb took it away from the Guild. He’s really a lousy businessman and this blood letting is the result of his poor judgement, lack of understanding of the opera business, walking customers and malfeasance since he was given the job. It is time to cut bait, as his fishing expedition has been nothing short of a loser. The fact he’s still their at a bloated salary is ridiculous and shows poor judgement by the current board.

  • Anon says:

    I guess it’s just a sign for the endgame. NYC is the capital of world capitalism, and that system is over the peak and in decline. Naturally ambitious cultural institutions suffer with it. You can’t systematically kill your culturally inclined middle class, and still attract enough people to opera.
    The few who *do* have the money on the other hand, are uncultured by definition. Being cultivated and upper class are not synonymous, less than ever. How can you for instance be an investment banker in these days, and still be cultured? Quite an oxymoron.
    The End

    • Harry Gruber says:

      Do you need to be “cultured” to be an opera fan and attend? Is being “cultured” limited to certain occupations and social standings? I attended in the early fifties standing in back of the Met’s auditorium surrounded by carpenters, barbers, students of all kind, and even investment bankers ( at least one I was introduced to). Opera is for the senses and for the emanated emotions of both singers and audience. All kinds of people love opera and will support it. Supreme Court Judge Ginsberg is an opera fan and so is my neighbor who praises our present President. Music if for all.

  • Harry Gruber says:

    Opera is a musical pageant with all the art forms represented. Such, however, is not the ticket to success in terms of revenue. Opera’s singing stars are. The Met must create its stars through superb performances and effective publicity. But newspaper or other media capability to do so has diminished to a sharp point. No reviews, no gossip, no incidents to report and no after performance places to meet the stars leads to lack of human interactions thus the “so what”? Cut back attendance prices and overhead. Deal with the unions. And create your new stars on vocal and attitude basis. Opera will be attended. Opera stars will again bring in the new aficionados.

  • thornhill says:

    1. For those who claim that Gelb is the cause of declining attendance and donations, I want to hear exactly what you think he’s done to have caused this. Sure, ditching some of the classic Zeffirelli productions pissed people off (notably Tosca), but Met audiences are way to resistant to change. Not only was there too little turnover in productions during Volpe’s tenure — Gelb inherited productions dating from the 1970s — but some of the Volpe premiers for core repertoire were just conservative and boring, such as Zeffirelli’s Carmen (Richard Eyre’s production done under Gelb is lightyears better).

    With few exceptions classical music institutions all over the country are having fundraising and attendance problems. Strikes and lockouts among major orchestras are becoming a lot more common. It’s not like everyone else is flying high.

    Maybe the worst thing Gelb did was not pushing out Levine years earlier, but can anyone blame him?

    2. Has anyone thought that maybe the Met’s administrative staff was bloated or that overtime jobs become irrelevant?

  • Rob says:

    Their management is horrible. And it is not customer friendly at all and they lost many dedicated subscribers with lack of communication. This company has somewhat exclusive position roles. They should have worked and restructured the system very long ago.

  • timbits says:

    Sacking people because of their age is unambiguously illegal. The whole reason you offer people buy-outs is to avoid doing this. I promise there will be no sudden layoffs of everyone over 50, even cleverly structured layoffs that make it seem like age was not a factor. It’s too easy to see through, especially at a high profile organization. If the buyout makes financial sense for you, you take it. If you don’t take it, the org has to figure something else out.