Peter Gelb will end his career at the Met

Peter Gelb will end his career at the Met


norman lebrecht

November 26, 2019

The board of directors of the Metropolitan Opera has extended the general manager’s contract for a further five years, to the middle of 2027. He has been in the job since 2006.

Gelb turned 66 this month. He will be 74 before this contract is up.

He told the Associated Press: It gives me the freedom to execute future planning and also I think will provide a level of stability for the company and an assurance to my staff and my team and the artistic community with whom I have to deal with that ideas that are being discussed will actually be implemented.’

No man sho ran the Met has ever been loved, but Gelb has attracted unusual levels of dislike, balanced by very few signs of affection. The tough decisions he has taken – provoking an orchestra strike, firing James Levine, dropping Domingo – have been either forced on him or conducted with unfailing lack of grace. He is not an approachable man. But he has survived.

And so has the Met.



  • Alexander says:

    good job

  • Lucinda says:

    Bravo, Mr. Gelb!

  • Francesca says:

    Shit doesn’t sink

  • sam says:

    Nobody else wants the job.

    Those who could be enticed to the job, might, if they could replace the Board.

    The Met has a twin problem of a passive Board and a feckless General Manager. It’s a rudderless ship that is drifting.

  • anon says:

    “…will end his career at the Met”

    Whichever comes first: Either the Met will end his career, or he’ll end the Met.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      You may be up to something. The new regietheater productions at the MET are a dealbreaker for me. And I am not alone.

      • The View from America says:

        Yes, the throngs of people lining up for tickets to those productions are the stuff of legend …

      • Larry D says:

        Which specific productions are they, pray? (Just trying to get a grasp on your mind…)

        • Yes Addison says:

          Another good question: Which directors who are not being asked to create productions for the Met, but are doing so at other operatic theaters in the 21st century, should Gelb be trying to engage?

          • Petros Linardos says:

            Excellent question. Unfortunately, on my end I can only say the old MET productions worked for me and nothing needed to get fixed.

            In my ideal world Gelb should keep the old productions, ignore Europe’s star directors,and find new talent that can direct naturalistic productions.

            I know you won’t agree, but I am replying to your question. You and I have different views on this, though I agree about Ponelle and have sometimes enjoyed G Friedrich. I’ve also been impressed by footage of Wieland Wagner productions.

          • Yes Addison says:

            We don’t always agree, but I do always appreciate your politeness.

            I would just offer that the productions you like did replace others, and there was a time when reviewers complained about the showboating, focus-pulling directors of the 1960s and 1970s…including Zeffirelli and Ponnelle. I haven’t liked every new production of Gelb’s period, but I have liked some of them (e.g., Butterfly, Falstaff, Elektra, Parsifal), and what I don’t like will have a finite lifespan.

            I don’t think that in theater, we should ever say that we’ve finally figured it out and this is how it should stay. Even if it’s possible to keep refurbishing the same sets and costumes as they deteriorate, it’s a dead end.

        • Sharon says:

          Try Akhnaten (did I spell it correctly?). Tremendously expensive to put on, a lot of stage bling, little singing, little real music.

          I know that the Met frequently does not break even in ticket sales but I cannot imagine that this was anything but a real money loser with regard to ticket sales.

          There may be a place for reggie opera but not at the Met.

          • Yes Addison says:

            Akhnaten sold out. There are three performances remaining with no tickets available.

            That doesn’t mean they should bring Akhnaten back every season as if it’s Bohème, but it did very well as a specialty item. The first run of Porgy and Bess also sold out.

            Generally when people complain about Regietheater productions, they don’t mean newer works. They mean they don’t like a new production of some warhorse operas.

          • Tiredofitall says:

            Sharon is correct. It takes a slew of Zeffirelli Bohemes and Turandots to subsidize even a sold-run of Ahknatens. That’s not to say they should not do Glass or other less-known works, but we have to be realistic about what pays the bills.

            When you try to mess with a proven formula (which Petey learned with Tosca and Traviata), you upset the equilibrium.

  • V. Lind says:

    Is there anyone else for whom a five-year contract extension would net the headline that the individual ENDS his career?

  • Cantantelirico says:

    FIRE GELB!!!!

    SAVE THE MET!!!!

  • john Kelly says:

    He is most definitely not an approachable man. I’vbe experienced that personally.

  • Save the MET says:

    I still firmly believe that Gelb has something on members of the Board he keeps in a safe a la Rudy Giuliani. When one can roll a bowling ball down almost any aisle on any night save his once a year improbable success, tells us he is incompetent and should have been removed years ago. Re-signing this pasty white non-musical non-theatrical twit until 2027 for more of the same shows that he has to have something on them to remain in that job. His people hate him, the artists don’t think much of him. If he ran a for profit business he would have been shown the door years ago by the shareholders.

    • John Rook says:

      Why is his colour important?

    • Larry D says:

      Okay, putting aside your ludicrous theory about his having a safe full of blackmail, can you come up with an ALTERNATIVE reason that the Board’s opinion might differ from your (totally rational, I’m sure) one?

      • Save the MET says:

        No, he’s been feckless wasting money since day one, choosing crap productions which would cost more money to replace in short order, he even spent money to change the MET font with a high end firm. His Ring Cycle which had to be redone as it was too large and heavy for the stage as he refused to use the MET shop and instead used Canadian labor which cost the experts in the shop work at first and then he had to pay time and a half, plus bed and board to them to fix the problem. His latest productions till remain from hunger. He’s no fund raiser and that’s been a huge problem, ever shake his hand and get the cold wet dead fish? Even his gift shop is a loser, one which he stole from the Guild when it was doing well and turned it into a shop which really does not appeal to opera fans. His gallery is a financial drain on the company. His seasons may have one or two productions which sell, but the rest of the time, one can roll a bowling ball down the aisles and not hit any feet. Subscriptions are way down, individual donations are down and they have just had their financial picture downgraded and I’m sure the New York Times article which exposed it was being kind, they usually are. They have now resigned this loser, yes loser at $2 million plus a year until 2027? Really? The employees under him are restless. The only explanation is he has the goods on someone and can bring Ann Ziff and her gang down. The only good thing he’s done is the movie house broadcasts, but he could have been hired under contract for that specifically. Can you think of another explanation? They have not done well under his leadership since day 1. Why else would you sign him? The only thing which makes sense is he has dirt.

  • Tamino says:

    I heard he wanted to retire sooner, but only to not to withdraw from Slippedisc one of its most lucrative sources of click-bait, he decided for additional five years. He is a very responsible man. 🙂

  • Larry D says:

    “No man sho ran the Met”? Is this a line from their current “Porgy and Bess”?

  • Mark says:

    I’ve known people who worked with Gelb both at the Met and his previous jobs. I can’t even repeat the words they use to describe him (the only printable one being “snake”). I have yet to meet a single person who actually likes him.

  • M.Arnold says:

    Larry D,
    You asked Petros Leonardos which “regie” productions under Gelb he dislikes. Can’t answer for him but as a long time Met goer since 1959 these are some of my favorite operas which I no longer attend due to the idiotic productions. Foremost on my list is the most moronic of all, Rigoletto set in Las Vegas where a casino singer has the authority, according to Rigoletto, to exile or imprison a love rival. Just as destructive to the story, a man in a casino in 1960’s Vegas, “curses’ someone and instead of telling him to f*** off, the cursed one spends the whole opera suffering and worrying about it as, I guess, was common with the Nevadans who attended casinos in the 60’s and ,I assume, being cursed is still a worry for the average casino goer today. Then, a hit man is paid off in scudi in 1960s Vegas, a father who wants above all to protect his daughter’s virginity, parks her on the top floor of a casino run by the #1 molester/seducer in the city, and finally instead of using the phone in the bar/tavern to call an ambulance, sings to his daughter for ca. 13 mins.until she dies in the trunk of a car because there is no river near Vegas .Other senseless Met productions are Faust building an A-Bomb, the King of Sweden joining in a Broadway chorus line in a set which looks like the lobby of the Chrysler Bldg., a video game Ring Cycle, a Manon Lescaut where a woman is banished by the Nazis to Louisiana in 1940, if you can believe that one! There are other Gelb “updates” which instead of showing us what the opera “means” destroy the veracity of the libretto.

    • Yes Addison says:

      The only one of those I liked was the Ballo in Maschera. However, the Rigoletto is scheduled for replacement, and the Faust hasn’t been back in seven years and doesn’t seem likely to return.

      Faust is snakebit at the Met, though. The two previous productions previous to that one (1990 and 2005) also flopped with critics and most of the audience, despite being well cast when they were new.

    • sycorax says:

      And lets not forget the Broadway director doing the “Merry Widow” without charm, without wit, without any glue about the time the operetta plays in. Instead it was vulgar and boring.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    He had to fire James Levine considering the seriousness of the allegations against him. In the case of Domingo, again he had no choice, as sanctimonious political correctness was impossible defy (therein lies the inconsistency in the USA culture. A President like Trump can survive every possible scandal, while elsewhere most sanctimonious forms of political correctness dominate). The falling audience numbers cannot be blamed on him, but on the state of US culture generally.

    • V. Lind says:

      I think Mr. Lebrecht’s comment that these decisions were forced upon him is telling. He must have been aware of Levine’s activities and reputation for a very long time, but did not dislodge him until public scandal was upon the Met. He was in no hurry to let Domingo go, either — though accounts from the Met about uncomfortable working situations must have been known to him. Presumably the LA report, on which the Met has said it was going to rely, tipped the balance. This is not someone running a happy ship — it is someone hoping for favourable winds. And oblivious to the looming iceberg.

    • Tamino says:

      Indeed. You can’t buy culture with money, neither can you win it with the most excessive military power in the world.
      Opera is such a European cultural phenomenon though. New York is less European today than it was decades ago. Another reason why the importance of opera is declining in the cultural life of New York, the capital of mammon.

  • Nick2 says:

    I suppose his last performance will be Tosca where he can do a Cavaradossi number in the last Act and expire before the curtain descends. Seems there are many who would quite like that to happen much sooner!