Peter Gelb waives his salary as the Met’s musicians are suspended

Peter Gelb waives his salary as the Met’s musicians are suspended


norman lebrecht

March 19, 2020

The Metropolitan Opera today cancelled the remainder of the 2019–20 season, which was to have ended on May 9, 2020.

Its general manager Peter Gelb said: ‘As devastating as it is to have to close the Met, this was the rare instance where the show simply couldn’t go on. We send our thanks to our loyal audiences and we’re doing our best to support our employees during this extraordinarily difficult time. We look forward to being reunited in the fall with a new season.’

Members of the orchestra and chorus have, as we reported earlier, been suspended without pay.

The Met spins this to read: The Met’s full-time union employees have been offered pay through March, with health care coverage continuing throughout the crisis. 

In addition: The higher paid members of the company’s administrative staff are taking reductions in their pay, with Mr. Gelb waiving his entire salary.

There is a $60 million black hole that the Met needs to fill by urgent fundraising.


  • Vaquero357 says:

    I was about to make this comment on the earlier article: “How do we know Peter Gelb hasn’t waived his own salary?”

    An odd thing for this arch-villain, Snidely Whiplash of the opera world to do!!

  • Tim says:

    Clear evidence he’s paid too much then.

    • Tamino says:

      Mean comment, forcing him into a lose-lose scenario. For you he just can’t do ANYTHING right.

      • Supporter of the WORKERS says:

        “Mean COMMENT” Tammy?!?!

        Mean ACTIONS from the met!!!

        Peter and the Met’s Board just ABANDONED some of the most talented artists in the world during a HEALTH CRISIS!

        Failing to PAY loyal people who TRUSTED you when you DO have the GREAT ability to liquidate financial instruments like stocks and bonds to quickly secure cash is something you expect out of banks or Republicans, not the very liberal met.

        Everybody needs to simply go to the Met’s website and look at the financial information they PUBLISH. It’s readily available and open to the public pursuant to their 501(c)3 designation under the US IRS Tax Code.

        Perhaps a vigorous IRS AUDIT of the whole of Lincoln Center would help get these poor people PAID based on their organizational structure.

    • Larry D says:

      Normally I refrain from using such a phrase on account of my mature age, but I’ll make an exception regarding Tim, so here goes: “Haters gonna hate!”

      • Marshall says:

        Good comment-too much hate out there. Yes, in the USA we see it with the President-but I notice the brilliant, articulate, well-coiffed European leaders are even worse in a crisis. Maybe it’s just a hard situation to deal with? No big fan of Gelb (could anyone do better? just I’d like to give someone else a chance-he had his)

      • Tim says:

        No individual needs or deserves 1.45 million dollars a year.

        • Tamino says:

          And Peter Gelb is the exemplary person to point this out?
          There are gazillions of scumbags out there – just look at Wall Street – who make more and are a plague to this planet. He at least heads a desirable cultural institution.

          • Tim says:

            He’s the relevant person to this thread.

          • BrianB says:

            Where are those richest men on the planet who gleefully spend a half billion dollars on a vanity presidential campaign when they could solve the Met’s and other hurting institution’s problems and not even feel it? I’m talking to you Mr. Bloomberg.

    • Z says:

      If you bother to read a bit, you would know that the general manager at the Met Opera is a very demanding job. The position is not any easier than the New York City mayor. Peter Gelb deserves every penny he earns.

      • Tim says:

        No one deserves 1.45 million dollars a year, it’s completely and utterly grotesque.

        When one considers the levels of poverty in the world, the hardship faced by musicians and none musicians, it is an unjustifiable sum for any individual to take.

        • smith says:

          1,45 million dollars in NYC is not really a lot.Compared to what others are making on this level. It’s like making a decent living in any other city. ceo of the met opera is a hell of a job and i believe he deserves his salary. Surprised it isn’t more

          • Tim says:

            That’s quite a ‘head in the sand’ comment. I know a lot of people in NY, musicians and non musicians, who would say you’re living in fantasy land.

            1.5m is a lot anywhere, period. There is nothing he can be doing to justify it when one considers what life is like for everyone else.

            You could find plenty of totally capable people to do it for less than half that.

        • Pagano says:

          His salary is over 2 million

  • V.Lind says:

    I do not see that as spin. It simply states what is going to happen, and agrees in every particular with the original story you posted.

    Contrary to prejudiced postings by the anti-Gelb faction, his colleagues apparently have taken a salary reduction and he is waiving his. This seems right. What more do you want — blood?

    People and companies are coping with these unprecedented situations as best they can, and in some cases it is not always all right from the beginning — everyone from political leaders to company heads to individuals is making decisions and revising them.

    Pet targets are not a useful contribution to the ongoing communications that are just about all the social interaction we have left. It would appear the Met has done what it feels it must — not a decision likely taken by Gelb single-handedly — and senior management has set a good example. Or at least he has. Surely there is room for credit where credit is due.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      The anti-Gelb faction must be daydreaming of the penultimate scene of Don Giovanni with Peter as the Don.

  • He needs to GO!! says:

    Pro-rated through the end of the season.

  • “The higher paid members of the company’s administrative staff are taking reductions in their pay, with Mr. Gelb waiving his entire salary.”

    We might ask what they do during this period, with no production at all going on, that merits still getting paid.

    There may be something, but what is it?

    • D says:

      Trying to raise money, scrambling to salvage the dwindling endowment, planning seasons five years into the future, etc. There’s more to running an opera house than what one sees on the stage.

    • Wow says:

      Clearly nothing happens behind the scenes or in between productions…the operas just roll into their laps from the sky and, as the Chosen Ones, they simply hire the orchestra and singers.

      And certainly the current situation is just business-as-usual, with no long-term plan needed to assess the place of an organization in a post-COVID economy after a forced 6 month hiatus with no revenue and a more reserved donation pool. No work to be done at all, obviously.

    • Z says:

      Does it ever occur to you that administrative staff do a lot of things even before a season starts, including planning, fundraising, and overseeing different artist programs? Don’t they deserve being paid for that?

      • SVM says:

        The musicians “do a lot of things even before a season starts”, too, including practice, training, learning the parts/roles (especially in the case of singers), self-promotion, and overseeing different audition programmes. Do they do not deserve being paid for that?

      • Mick da Knife says:

        True, plus they have more work now, I would suppose, planning for all contingencies.

      • A hand-wave response.

        “Planning” when they can’t know when they will reopen?

        “Fundraising” when the donors can’t be told what they are supporting?

        “Artist programs” when all events canceled?

    • Shockingly says:

      Future productions don’t prepare themselves.

    • Harold Sacks says:

      What about Yannick? I would expect he will waive his salary.

  • Geoffthehighhorse says:

    America does have something called Unemployment. It is completely wrong to characterize this is unique to the Met. When every car company, airline, hotel, restaurant, etc. is doing the same thing you cannot point your finger at the Met as some demon. There needs to a be wake-up call of maturity in the classical music industry. It is continuously made up of people who think that business rules do not apply to them. It is a business. It is art. Art is business. Get off the high horses. We are all in this together and whining about it is not going to change it. Apply for unemployment. If you’re a freelance artist this is a very different situation but for the orchestra and chorus they are full-time employees.

  • Jack says:

    Reading the snarky comments in this string makes me think of that saying that no good deed goes unpunished.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    Apart from those who fell victim to this virus, those most affected are the countless people who have lost their incomes as businesses are shutting down or laying off workers. For many of them it will take much longer to return to normal than most of us.

  • Peter San Diego says:

    It would have been much better for this announcement to come before the other; better late than never, though.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Very decent thing to do. In Australia our national airline’s CEO has taken a huge pay cut as 20,000 staff are shed.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    I’m no fan of Peter Gelb, but at last he has shown that he is capable of doing the right thing.

    During the most recent temporary administrative pay cut about ten years ago, he ultimately took a 10% pay cut, when everyone in the building was aware that the summer before the board had awarded in a 20 to 25% increase (still, a net increase). You can’t even imagine the fury among the staff. Perhaps now Peter can begin to rid himself of that tarnish.

    Few working people in the world–not even the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera-will come out of this unscathed. Let’s hope some of the gold-clad CEOs of corporate America will show similar humility and empathy for those workers who make companies and institutions function.

  • WillymH says:

    Just wondering what Covent Garden is doing about their staff? And will it be reported with the same tone?

    • Tim says:

      No one in the U.K. arts sector is paid 1.5m.

      I believe the equivalent position at ENO has a salary of £150,000.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Covent Garden has much lower salaries, and is partly government funded. And they won’t need to pay the guest singers for the cancelled concerts. They will try to ride-it-out. They can probably survive if the rest of the season is cancelled without a government bailout.

  • Karl says:

    It would have looked better if they had announced this at the same it was reported that the musicians were suspended. Now it just looks like he was shamed into doing it.

  • CA says:

    The Met will likely be able to raise the $60 million but it could take a while. More to the point: why exist on the margin like this year after year after year?

  • HRosen says:

    1-Norm, is it true Gelb owns the production company that makes the HD broadcasts and that he makes a very large percentage of the profits from the broadcasts? If so, isn’t that something that we all should know about. Why isn’t 100% profits going to keep Met going?
    2-surely they won’t be loosing $50-$60 million if they aren’t paying the freelance singers coming in? Surely that is the major outlay and giving back 0% of the fees must mean he’s hardly loosing anything. Have a look in a Met program any evening and yous see $400 million of’s a sham the whole thing. If the board think it’s being led by the best possible person then they are completely wrong. Gelb and Zola must go. Decent, properly qualified people must come in.

  • David H Spence says:

    Is Royal Opera also closed for the rest of their 2019-2020 season? I was looking forward to attending the Elektra with Stemme, Mattila, Jakubiak at season’s end, though little else. Christof Loy is or was to have been the producer, over whom I have to entertain a few doubts, after his highly detached Forza for the company towards the end of last season.

  • David H Spence says:

    Ditto. I attend these or have done so at River Oaks Theater (Landmark) in Houston thus far, the theater due to the health crisis which is closed for at least time being now.