Gelb must go? One headline says so

Gelb must go? One headline says so


norman lebrecht

September 26, 2019

No-one would dispute that the Met’s removal of two of the world’s greatest singers in as many days was woefully mishandled by its general manager Peter Gelb.

But is it a sacking offence?

In the Boston Globe, Zoe Madonna thinks it has to be:

Whatever the reasons for Gelb’s circling the wagons around Domingo, he simultaneously created a toxic environment for his staff and confirmed my worst fears about opera. His response reinforces a paradigm of opera as a hidebound, hierarchical world, where venerated men get away with absolutely anything. In the meantime, artists who depend on good relationships with the powerful few (a.k.a. almost everyone else working in opera) must stoically sing past all kinds of inappropriate behavior — or leave the field entirely.

It’s time to ask: what do we want opera to stand for? I know what I want: I want an opera world where no one has to worry about giggling and smiling through harassment when they go to work. I want a world where having a famous name, or the support of the top 0.01 percent, or legions of adoring fans to descend on accusers and critics, doesn’t mean it’s easier to escape accountability. I want a world where less sympathy is given to abusers than those they abused, no matter how well those abusers might sing.

It’s time for Gelb to go, and take the board with him…

Read on here.


  • Doug says:

    As we say in the reality-based community: Get Woke, Go Broke.

  • Caravaggio says:

    She makes very valid points. Good for her for writing openly about the situation.

    • Alan says:

      She doesn’t. I don’t see anything there about a man’s right to his good name. His right to confront his accuser(s), his right not to be destroyed by anonymous people. His right to a fair trial. Just another woke liberal who doesn’t care who gets taken down. Let the innocent fall with the guilty. So be it. Disgusting.

      • Laurence says:

        Has Domingo asked to confront his accusers? I doubt it. I’m sure they’d be happy to set up an appropriate venue for this to occur. I’m also sure that he damn well knows who they are. The fact that YOU don’t know their names doesn’t bother me. I tremble at what you and others like you would be eager to do with that information. We have seen the vindictive trolls associated with the Brett Kavanaugh case, where a woman was forced to move multiple times because her life was threatened by Kavanaugh’s decidedly “unwoke” defenders, the ones who think all women are liars and harpies. Domingo has lost his “good name”, through every fault of his own.

      • V.Lind says:

        Increasingly seems his name was not that good in a lot of places.

      • Save The MET says:

        Mr. Domingo’s name has been sullied for decades as a serial sexual harasser. The joke backstage at the MET was both he and Pavarotti cheated on their spouses, Pavarotti would stay with one and Domingo would go after anything in a skirt. They all felt pressured, some welcomed it, some lived with it, some ran. His wife got wind of it about 20 years ago and was always backstage at the MET afterwards, she was known as the “all seeing owl”. This has nothing to do with politics and you sir are a cad for equating it as such; bless your heart.

  • Robert says:

    “Zoë Madonna is a writer, amateur accordionist, and yarn hoarder based in Boston. A 2015 graduate of Oberlin College, she was awarded the 2014 Rubin Prize for Music Criticism. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe and on”

  • Bruce says:

    She makes good points, but of course the “burn it to the ground” approach is never practical. Still, if you call for total destruction and get just a little bit of destruction, then it can be a net positive.

    People have been calling for Gelb to leave since he first arrived; that original terrible idea of replacing the Zeffirelli “Tosca” just because it was old, and replacing it with something modern and ugly (let’s update Michelangelo’s David with a mod haircut and some piercings & tattoos) was enough to convince me.

    This could be an excuse for board members who don’t like his artistic “vision” to join with those (if there are any) who are genuinely disturbed by his, shall we say, patriarchal tendencies, to work for his ouster.

    Just a thought.

  • Joel A Stein says:

    It’s good the Globe gets to comment on the Met as it scarcely reviews any concerts in Boston, and I read about Malcolm Lowe’s retirement on slippedisc before it appeared in the Globe.

  • MWnyc says:

    I agree with the second paragraph Norman quoted. But —

    I want a world where having a famous name, or the support of the top 0.01 percent, or legions of adoring fans to descend on accusers and critics, doesn’t mean it’s easier to escape accountability.

    That would be a world without human beings as we currently exist, I’m afraid.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      I think it is unlikely that getting rid of Gelb will achieve those objectives. In fact, going after Gelb when he has just fired two people (or three with Levine) alleged to have “behaved poorly” might mean the next person to manage the Met prefers not to act. Gelb “got there in the end”.

  • Ms.Melody says:

    Vittorio Grigolo one of the world’s greatest singers?
    Hyperbole much. As was commented by multiple contributors, Gelb really had no choice but to sacrifice Placido Domingo. As distasteful as it was, the pressure he must have been under I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. The whole affair smacks of McCarthyism and show trials reminiscent of the Stalinist purges.
    I think we all want a world where justice is served,
    accusations are supported by solid evidence, due process is followed and the accused are deemed innocent until proven guilty, and reputations are NOT destroyed by anonymous trolls on social media.

    • V.Lind says:

      Unnamed subjects of serious journalism in the closely vetted AP are not “anonymous trolls on social media.” It is stories in the AP and on NPR — another respectable outlet — that were brought to the attention of musical institutions. Several did not draw breath before acting in one way or another. Others may have had quiet personal reports finally reach the ears of people who have responsibility for their employees and contractors. I doubt people like Gelb are responding to social media.

  • Hermann Lederer says:

    It is getting more and more funny: if „Gelb goes“ and especially when “he takes the board with him“ the Met will definitely be definitely be a world where abusers have no sympathy at all – because it will be closed forever….

  • Mark says:

    What the ridiculously-named “Madonna” doesn’t get is that opera should stand for one thing only
    – great artistic results.
    Nothing else matters.
    You want “inclusive” ? Go join your local coop …

    However, I won’t have any sympathy for Gelb – did he really think that he could feed the P.C. monster without it eventually turning against him ?

    • Olassus says:

      Madonna is an Italian family name. You got a problem with that?

    • Cyril says:

      “Nothing else matters” so it should just be a huge gropefest if that’s what the gropers want? Those with the dressing room keys bursting in on the unsuspecting undressed? Opera is a workplace…regardless of what the type of work is.

    • Fallacy Ref says:

      So you’re actually going with the Polanski argument? As long as great art is being crafted, nothing else matters? You want “intelligent” – find another argument.

      How is a mindfully-managed, open, inclusive environment with accountability for all involved necessarily antithetical to the achievement of great artistic results, ridiculously-named “Mark?”

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Sorry to disagree Mark but while I want “great artistic results” I also want it to be run by decent people who operate according to employment law and treat all their employees fairly. [And keep within budget.]

  • Jason S. says:

    The writer obviously is not too knowledgeable about how the Met operates. Gelb simply carries out the board’s decisions. He does not have the final say on these big scandals or how to handle them. When the Levine scandal was about to hit the newspapers, the first thing Gelb did was to telephone members of the executive committee of the board. He didn’t have the authority to do anything until he was instructed to by the board. These major decisions are made by the board, not Gelb. If anyone is to blame for the way the Met handled the Domingo situation it is the board, not Gelb.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      It is not quite as black-and-white as you suggest. Gelb runs the business day-to-day and is supported by the board. In principle he could have just fired Domingo, but since he needs the support of the board to stay in post, very sensibly he consults the board when major decisions are being made.

  • Urs says:

    Her stated aspirations may be good but this will not be achieved by extremist means. Extremists will only create a toxic atmosphere where nobody trusts anyone else and, as wonderful MET might be, it will cease to be the great theatre it is. The extremists may have succeeded already. That is not to say that opera houses in question couldn’t have done better in resolving such conflicts. When women complained, they should have been heard and the perpetrator warned. If behaviour persisted, sanctions should have been applied. Sure the prospect of loosing a contract would convince those keen ‘lovers’ to behave. None of this seems to have happened though. Too bad, these operas should now fire themselves. Now they have the crazies going after them and destroying everything on the way! Scary stuff. The extremists only know black or white, if you have misbehaved, you are no longer a human and should be destroyed no matter how much input you have in the art. Barbaric!

    • V.Lind says:

      Rubbish. Domingo has not been destroyed. As Sandy says at the end of Miss Jean Brody, “I didn’t assassinate you. I simply put a stop to you.” And so far he has still got a wife and family and a very active career in Europe and elsewhere.

    • Karl says:

      “When women complained, they should have been heard and the perpetrator warned. If behaviour persisted, sanctions should have been applied.”

      Good idea but the problem is that many women don’t report the alleged harassment until 20-30 years after it supposedly occurred. That makes it impossible to prove or disprove anything. These memories of harassment are very likely false or distorted. Or outright lies.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        The women didn’t complain because the workplace culture at the time would not have taken their complaints seriously. Many here still don’t take this kind of behaviour seriously.

  • Couperin says:

    Can’t he just go away for all of the crappy productions and commissions he had been responsible for?

  • Utopianopera says:

    This opinion piece is insane. She writes about the Met and the world of Opera as though it is ride with predators. She wants the board out, too? I understand getting rid of the general manager but she writes for a newspaper that is barely solvent and wants the board to resign so she can have a utopian ideal of Opera. This is nonsense.

    • V.Lind says:

      There is nothing utopian — or shouldn’t be — about being able to go to work without someone you do not want demanding sexual gratification of one sort or another every time you run into him. That applies to opera houses as much as any other workplace. That’s what she wants.

  • Kay Langford says:

    The Met should be able to withstand the light of day.
    Art endures, but not the artist.

  • Edgar says:

    I fully agree: The Met wil only survive with Gelb and current board gone.