Broke ENO will pay singers. Rich Met won’t. What’s to be done?

Broke ENO will pay singers. Rich Met won’t. What’s to be done?


norman lebrecht

March 18, 2020

Directors of struggling English National Opera have committed to carry on paying the singers it booked for this season.

ENO says it will honour ‘all contracts until the end of the main stage opera season up to and including performances on April 18’.

That is brave, and decent, and the right thing to do.

The Met, on the other hand, has flashed the ‘force majeure’ clause in its contracts, releasing it from the need to pay for events outside of the company’s control. The singers it hired will not receive a cent. This is mean, borderline unethical, and plain wrong.

So what’s to be done?

The Met is forever appealing to the ‘generosity’ of patrons, latterly asking them not to claum refunds for tickets they have bought for the rest of this cancelled season. The Met itself is showing extreme lack of generosity in relation to its artists.

Met goers should recognise that Peter Gelb’s company has something wrong with its human values.

Donors can draw their own conclusions.




  • sam says:

    “Broke ENO…”

    The headline says it all.

    Robbing Peter to pay Paul.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Always felt somewhat amused and annoyed when the Met starts appealing for money at broadcasts as if it is some charity. Many people who perform there are highly paid yet they ask for money off ordinary working class people to keep the show on the road.

    • Laurence says:

      Unlike other major opera houses in Europe there is no government support for the Met. To keep a high standard of performance level in normal circumstances, these performers receive the salaries they do. Working class people don’t have to pay anything beyond their ticket, but there are other people out there who may wish to contribute. Be squeamish but also understand the why.

      • Ken says:

        Yes. The broadcast support is external to the internal budget. And “force majeure” is correct.

      • False, the Met get about 1 million dollars a year from the Federal Government Council For The Arts. More than any other Us Arts Organization. They were also loan 242 million dollar from the City of NY to renovate Lincoln Center.

  • Paul Dawson says:

    Chicago Lyric made a fairly serious plea to be allowed to hang on to the payment for their (now cancelled) Ring Cycle tickets. They said nothing about paying the singers or staff. If they had, I might have let, them keep it.

  • Scarpia says:

    Perhaps it is worth you doing a little survey of which houses are paying their guest artists and which aren’t. Most houses in Europe will not pay citing Force Majeure. ENO and Opera North are to be commended.
    No news from Covent Garden yet?

  • Anon says:

    And that, SD readers, is inherently the difference between Britain and America!

  • Laurence says:

    Before running down management, why not make contact and find out the reason for this decision?

  • Araragi says:

    It is noteworthy that the Met (for now) is continuing to pay its full time employees, including orchestra, chorus, stage hands, etc. The “force majeure” clause is only being invoked with regard to independent contractors. It is also noteworthy that American houses rely far more heavily on ticket sales than European houses so the comparison to ENO is unfair. The Met’s balance sheet has weakened in recent years. So much so that S&P lowered its credit rating last year. This situation is what a force majeure clause is for – to mitigate losses. Those who decry its invocation are not the ones who actually have to balance the balance sheet.

  • Bastardi!!!! says:

    There are no “house” singers anymore. All singers are “guests”. I call upon all those who refuse to pay singers, to they themselves relinquish their salaries as an act of solidarity.

    • Someone Who Actually Works There says:

      Nope. Not true. We still have house singers. You’ll hear them in small/medium solo roles, and as understudies for the big names.

      • I actually worked there too. says:

        Gelb dissolved the cover system years ago. A “plan artist” today is not what a house singer once was. Tucker was a house tenor.

  • Karl Stenhausen says:

    Here we can see a perfect example of a capitalist system and a more people-friendly socialist system.

  • Jack says:

    Generosity is cheap and easy when you can rely on government funding.

    • V.Lind says:

      Government = taxpayers. Americans do not believe in their taxes going to support others, hence no universal heath care. Let alone subsidised arts.

      Americans believe in “charity,” whereby well-to-do individuals choose who gets assistance, AND get a tax break for their pains. They tend not to choose poor people, homeless people, hungry people or others who are without. If so inclined, they choose the arts, where there is everything from see-and-be-seen to corporate entertaining possibilities to virtue-signalling, and occasionally love of the art in question. And the tax break.

      • Araragi says:

        You might be surprised to know that, according to the OECD, the U.S. government redistributes about the same percentage of GDP as the combined average of all other OECD nations, or about 20%. And since U.S GDP is significantly higher than GDP of the other nations, that’s also a significantly larger amount of money. Food for thought when you make generalizations like “Americans do not believe in their taxes going to support others…”

        • V.Lind says:

          But they don’t. It’s the basic argument against universal health care which every other nation in the civilised world has had for half a century or more. People are not bankrupt in Scotland or France or Hong Kong by getting ill.

          A lot of that spending goes to defence, and fat bureaucracies that — even after 9/11 — remain inimical to one another. It does not go to social care to the extent it does in other countries — the numbers may be higher, but so is the population. It does not seem to go to law and order, as no other country has the amount of gun death and mass shootings that the US has, or as many people in prison.

          People in Europe pay far more for petrol (gasoline) to run their cars than people in the US. Your people won’t do it. They tend, on the whole, to run smaller cars as a result, while Americans refer their SVUs and cheap gas and successive governments let them. Anad of course as a result Americans have a vested interest in denying the cost of greenhouse gases from transportation emissions, and are reluctant to the point of refusal to do a damned thing about it. Led by that moronic creature you elected and seem prepared to elect again — Mr. Coal.

          Sorry, I don’t buy it.

          • Araragi says:

            I believe you misread my post. The OECD does not report that the U.S. spends 20% of GDP (in total the U.S. spends much more as a % of GDP than that). It spends 20% of GDP on redistribution. Which is, on average, comparable to the other OECD nations. These are facts. They are not for you to “buy.”

          • Saxon Broken says:

            Er…this is a bit misleading. Basically, it depends which state you live in. Places like New York and California are not that different from Europe. Texas, however, is very different and does less redistribution from rich to poor.

            This also ignores health care, which is rather redistributive in Europe (since it is universal and largely covered by taxes), but is not in the US.

  • Vaquero357 says:

    Here’s a list of “heroes” among presenting organizations – those paying artists at least *part* of their fees for cancelled performances:

  • Tim says:

    I think this crisis gives many a chance to think about the way guest artists are treated in the industry. ENO are to be commended.

  • Lee says:

    And I suppose Peter Gelb will continue paying his own salary which is above $2,000,000 a year. What a disgraceful act.