So how much is Andrew Davis making in Chicago?

So how much is Andrew Davis making in Chicago?


norman lebrecht

December 27, 2018

Musicians at the Lyric Opera went on strike this year because the company is shrinking the orchestra and their takehome pay.

So it comes as a bit of a shock to find that Sir Andrew Davis made $915,000 in the last audited year, 2015-16, and the general director Anthony Freud pulled down  $781,000.

Nice work if you can get it.

More here.


  • anon says:

    If the Lyric were to offer you the general directorship, how much would you negotiate for, that is, how much do you think you’re worth in the American market compared to your peers (since those who criticize Gelb so much)?

    No more than the highest paid musician at the Lyric? Twice as much, since you’ll also be responsible for all artistic decisions and programming? Three times as much, since you’ll also be responsible for all administrative duties, hiring, firing, negotiating labor contracts? Four times as much, since you’ll also be responsible for fundraising, being profitable?

    I would not take on all these responsibilities for less than $750,000.

    • Mark Hildrew says:

      ==also be responsible for fundraising,

      Barenboim, when he left CSO said that one thing he had hated there was going to fund-raising dinners and talking to little old ladies hoping that they’d leave the orch some $$$ when they died.

    • Doug says:

      And has he lived up to that responsibility if the company is losing money, and proposing to slash the orchestra’s pay and number of players? Yes or no?

      • Jack says:

        Well Doug, It appears that he did go to fund-raising dinners. He hasn’t been in that job since 2006, so do you really think it’s fair to lay any current financial difficulties at his feet?

    • Bill says:

      I believe the point Norman is trying to make is that if you are going to make that kind of money, you probably should be earning your keep by coming up with ways to expand your audience and fundraising rather than taking the lazy way out by slashing your season and blaming your failures on your employees.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Before criticizing, one should know the facts. What has been here reported, other than some salary information. What do we know about Davis’ and Freud’s efforts?

    • Karl says:

      I agree that its a difficult job, but looking at declining revenues it doesn’t look like they are doing a good job. “Annual revenue at Lyric Opera has dropped over the last four years, to about $62.5 million in the fiscal year ending mid-2017 from about $90.5 million in 2014, according to tax forms filed with the IRS. During that time, expenses rose to $88.1 million from $75.8 million.”

      Looks like incompetence to me. I wouldn’t give $781,000 to someone with that kind of record.

  • Rob says:

    Davis is worth every penny.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    Not fair to compare the salary that comes with being an Intendant to that of a rank and file orchestra musician. There is much more responsibility with being in charge and market forces also dictate what an individual can earn.

    Conductor salaries are another matter as we all know those are highly inflated and most music directors are not worth as much as they get.

    • MacroV says:

      Do we really know that? A great conductor would seem to be worth his/her weight in gold, rare as they are if comments on SD are to be believed.

  • Nick2 says:

    I have no idea how many performances he conducted during the last audited season. If it is anything like the present season, then it was just 13. This season he conducted/will conduct 4 Siegfrieds, 5 Cendrillons and 4 Idomeneos. That’s around $70,000 per performance. Like many opera MDs, I expect part is expressed as an administration fee. But the per performance fee would surely still seem outrageous.

    Over the next 7 months he has just 2 Lyric performances. In that same period he has 4 concerts with the Boston Symphony, 8 in Toronto, 12 in Melbourne and 4 elsewhere. At least these are the only ones on his website. I have no idea what these orchestras pay and I accept that a new production of an opera requires around 4 weeks of rehearsal on average. But he must surely be one of the highest paid conductors around.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      No doubt many conductors’ salaries are inflated due to market conditions, but $70,000 per performance for Davis doesn’t sound accurate to me. What about rehearsals and other administrative or fundraising duties?

      • Nick2 says:

        I thought I had made that point. But how much would the basic admin/rehearsal fee be, I wonder? In its most recent returns, Pappano earned a basic salary of £115,000 and fees of £679,591 at the ROH. I have no figures but Pappano led five productions and I suspect conducted around three times as many performances as Davis in Chicago.

        But to your point. If – and I accept this is a guess – Davis is paid a similar basic salary for planning much, much shorter seasons than the ROH, then $150,000 or thereabouts of his total remuneration will go to administration and other duties like attending a handful of fund raising dinners. Even then his per performance fee still comes out at an outrageous $58,800 per performance conducted!

  • passerby says:

    His pay doesn’t sound that high (for a music director). How many weeks per year does he work at the opera company?

    • Nick2 says:

      $915,000 for conducting 13 performances of 3 operas? That doesn’t sound high? I accept that (1) opera conductors have weeks of rehearsal for which I assume, like the soloists, there is no fee, and that (2) unlike symphony orchestra conductors their performances of each opera are spread out over a longer period of time. Nevertheless, the bulk of his administrative work will take place during the time he is at rehearsals and the many days between performances.

      The fact is the Lyric remains quite a short part-time employment. Davis is in addition the MD of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Interim Artistic Director of the Toronto Symphony. From both organisations he will earn a substantial basic salary and basket of fees. Add to that his many performances with other orchestras, including this season the Boston Symphony, the BBC Symphony and BBC Philharmonic and goodness knows how many others.

      Music Directors of opera companies in Europe rarely have the luxury of so many other permanent and guest engagements, if only because they work a great deal harder in term of the number of performances they conduct. In another post, I mention Pappano’s workload at the ROH. Sure, he is paid a bit more. But then he conducts far more performances and has less free time for other employment.

  • Mark London says:

    My god Davis ain’t that good ! He’s been there 20 years + on a nice earner! Mayst have lots of investments around the world with that sort of salary, while the actual musicians and artists are struggling to pay the rent !

  • Karl says:

    When musicians have to take pay cuts the management should take pay cuts also. In Hartford the conductor Carolyn Kuan took a pay cut when the musician did.

    • Bruce says:

      It’s rare, but not unheard of. Our music director did it once upon a time, but kept quiet about it. I think he wanted things to be [relatively] fair, but didn’t want word to get out that he could be had for less money.

      • The View from America says:

        It may be less rare than one might think. During the 2008 recession in the USA, I know of a number of orchestras where the conductors gave back a portion of their salary. I didn’t have any “inside knowledge” so it was something publicly divulged.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    Neither one of them would take a pay cut to save the company and yet they agree with each other that everyone else in the company should do so. Interesting that this article says nothing about what the totally useless Fleming earns for smiling into the camera. When the doors close it won’t be because subscriptions are low, it will be because a greedy administration is grossly over compensated.

  • HullExecutive says:

    Music directors, at least in the US, usually get two salaries, sometimes 3. 1 for being music director, one for actually conducting, and a 3rd if they are a soloist too. Also, these are sometimes separately shown on IRS filings. Not to mention the fact that sometimes their salaries are “hidden” as independent contractors.
    From an artistic standpoint, Andrew Davis may be worth it. But what about Anthony Freud? Presidents of non-profits (not just classical musically oriented) think they need to be paid as much as someone in the private sector and no longer have any concern for public service. That’s an expense that could easily be cut, especially when the current management of most opera companies seem to have no idea how to re-build audiences, as they seem to be unable to cut costs and lower prices.
    What, pray tell, does Renee Fleming actually contribute to Lyric?
    Supposedly they bring young people in (once perhaps? how about more than once?) and yet they expect people to pay $300 for a mainfloor seat and over $100 for the upper balconies. Then some twitter follower gets to buy a seat for $50. Why subscribe? Why donate?
    Someone who can answer these questions might be worth it. Otherwise Boards should use the money to hire someone else and lower prices.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    I do agree with those on the thread that have suggested that cuts be shared by all and not just the rank and file musicians.

    Not sure how you could stand in front of your orchestra and not feel some sort of shame for not sharing in the financial pain.

  • Chicago says:

    What a shame to think that the company could go under paying for Davis. And for what? He really holds the Lyric back, in my opinion. Freund, too.

    • Mark Hildrew (not a knight) says:

      Davis has got an annoying habit in the many podcasts and web stuff he does by saying “I’m Sir Andrew Davis”

      What ? can you imagine “I’m Sir Simon Rattle” for example ? No way. In fact Sir Simon has the OM which is the highest honour in the land.

    • Guest says:

      I will do a better job with production and music, get the audiences pumping and flowing and for $50,000 a year

      • Guest says:

        Nevermind, I just saw some video of their productions and realized that its epic circus production, I forgot that music and intimacy are not the mainly solely favored qualities of opera. And that an increase in tasteful nudity would clash with the marketing to kids. I felt the need to write this response after realizing I could not delete what I am replying to.

    • Guest says:

      Say he made $100,000. How far could that $815,000 really go?

      “Annual revenue at Lyric Opera has dropped over the last four years, to about $62.5 million”

      How many members in the orchestra? 62 million divided by the random 250 is: 248,000

      Costs of the building maintenance, rent, utilities, set materials and design and designers and builders, costume materials and designers, electronics/lights operators, pr/advertising, singers, orchestra, conductor.. probably things I am forgetting.

      “Musicians at the Lyric Opera went on strike this year because the company is shrinking the orchestra and their takehome pay”

      Does the term ‘their takehome pay’ imply they may have had some deal like getting percentage of ticket sales, and management realized that they were getting a bigger cut then they should have agreed to?

  • James says:

    The idea of a conductor’s salary being based solely on performances is as absurd as the trope of orchestral musicians only working 20 hours a week. Conductors usually spend up to 40 hours a week studying for upcoming performances. Opera conductors conduct weeks of staging rehearsals. Music directors spend hours on the phone, in meetings, and writing emails doing the administrative function of the job. All told, the actual hours of performance are a minuscule part of the job responsibility in terms of hours spent working. Conductor salaries might be slightly inflated in certain parts of the world, but most conductors work long hours, spend months of their lives on planes, in hotels, and away from their families, and work an extremely high stress and high stakes job, night after night.

  • Guest says:

    Do most Opera houses professionally film (throw an hd camera on in the back of hall) the performances and sell them after? Or do they record them and then just keep them for personal enjoyment? Or not record them at all? I don’t get how all that money and effort could be invested and not record to capture the greatness of it for time, the only reason I can think to not want to sell it as dvds is belief that if people got copy of a great opera performance they would not want to see it live in their own town or next time it came up. I have seen much good footage of Opera performances but I just wondered if it is standard practice in every Opera house to make sure a few performances are recorded.

    Also that thought ties into: “$915,000 for conducting 13 performances of 3 operas? That doesn’t sound high?” Movie directors can maybe make that much and they only have to do the performance once. Though yes, maybe there are more money giving eyes. Lets say for one year he took an $800,000 pay cut, that would mean 100 extra ways to spend $8,000, does that really make a meaningful difference? Well sure, the musicians who were asked to take a pay cut would rather $8,000 extra as opposed to making less money.

  • Guest says:

    And has it been specified if “Sir Andrew Davis made $915,000 in the last audited year, 2015-16” refers to strictly this opera house, or if that was from all of his worldly engagements that year?