What game is Peter Gelb playing with the union?

What game is Peter Gelb playing with the union?


norman lebrecht

March 20, 2020

I have the feeling we are not being told the whole truth about the shocking suspension without pay of the Met’s orchestra and chorus.

The Met’s version came out eight hours after Slipped Disc broke the story.

Here’s a second statement last night from Local 802:
‘We fully support the Metropolitan Opera for taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of workers and patrons during the COVID-19 outbreak,’ said Adam Krauthamer, President of Local 802 AFM. ‘The Met Opera has informed us that it will not pay its regular musicians after March 31 and that it will extend health coverage indefinitely. The musicians of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, alongside the many other unions who work at the Met, are the heart and soul of this storied institution. These professionals, many with families who rely on their paychecks, are now facing the prospect of no income for an extended period of time. We believe that immediate governmental assistance is essential to avoid a brutal outcome for these musicians.’

That makes it sound like the union agreed in advance to the suspension of its members’ employment. The musicians we have spoken to say they were not consulted ahead of the event.

Was there some private understanding that the Met would continue paying health coverage if the union okayed the wage suspension?

Let’s have some transparency.


  • Bill says:

    Sorry guys, welcome to the real world club. I don’t understand why these musicians think they are exempt from the same things every other worker in the same position is experiencing right now.

    This is what life is like outside of the ivory tower bubble for most workers.

    It’ll suck, but at least there will be a good paying job waiting for them once the dust clears and they’re still getting health insurance. That’s more than most will have who are getting laid off right now.

    The Met can’t print money, and the US doesn’t care much to subsidize the arts like Germany.

    • CA says:

      It’s different under a collective bargain contract, and many (if not most) professional musicians may not realize that in the USA at least, most employees do not have a union contract. Please do not fault the musicians for wanting what they are merely accustomed to under this type of an employment arrangement. I’m willing to bet there’s not a whole lot of discussion in conservatory schooling about employment law, union contracts and employment arrangements in general in this country to provide more insight.

    • Clark Piedmont says:

      So liquidate.

      They’ve got plenty more items to create cash and pay those they owe through their bookings not to mention their mortgaged Chagall’s, investments, cash reserves, etc.


      The Met already mentioned their venue is too big, so just sell it and downsize just like everybody else.

      Maybe relinquishing their 501c3 status and becoming taxpayers is best as it obviously aligns with their true value system.

      • Sell It Now says:

        Yes, the Met is too big, so please sell it to a real estate developer and turn it into luxury condominiums. The Trump Organization’s founder will be looking for a new project come the end of this year, so this would be ideal.

        • Oh Well... says:

          The Saudis can simply step in and snap it up as they have most of the real estate in NYC.

          Besides, President Trump will be too busy in his second term leading the country out of the mess he inherited from the Democrats.

          Meanwhile both Sanders and Biden should be speaking up on behalf of the Met along with other Arts Institutions at a dire time like this. However they’re too both busy trying to figure out which nursing home they’ll end up in. Too bad Hillary is so self-absorbed; she can’t be bothered to help let alone sober up.

      • Monsoon says:

        Lincoln Center owns the opera house — the Met rents it.

        I love how people who don’t even know these basic facts about the Met act like they’re experts on the organization’s finances.

        The bulk of the Met’s tangible assets are all of the equipment, props, and costumes. That may have a value on the balance sheet, but nobody is going to buy it for much money.

        • Sound says:

          Here’s some further educational material for you Monsoon.

          It’s from the NYT so you can trust it babe!!


          It is making everyone wonder wherever did ALL that money go that the Met can’t cough up a pittance to at least honor their their most vital people…OPERA SINGERS plus the crew of chorus, orchestra, etc.

          It’s an OPERA house as opposed to a Concert Hall if that helps to educate you.

        • Abdul El Erain says:

          You should leave these types of discussions to the men as you no nothing of their investment structure and use of foreign tax shelters.

        • Save the MET says:

          Actually not so, the MET is the only organization at Lincoln Center that owns it’s property. It is technically owned by the Metropolitan Opera Association, the Board of Directors. It was one of the stipulations that was put in the development of Lincoln Center as they owned the old Brick Brewery.

        • Khalid M says:

          You’re more like a droplet…

          Who said the Met OWNED the building??

          You CLEARLY no nothing about their stock portfolio (both US and overseas) either.

          Girls like you really need a MAN to guide you through life since all you know how to do is spend.

          We keep your kind covered for this very reason.

          • Save the MET says:

            One of the most bizarre responses ever on Norman’s site. What has this to do with their stock portfolio, they own the facility. That’s all there is to it. Your other comment was shockingly not edited by Norman. There is clearly a valid reason for #metoo and staying off meth.

  • WillymH says:

    What exactly does the MET owe you or I in the way of transparency? Are they tax payer funded like, say, the Royal Opera is in the UK? Why are they answerable to you or me?

  • Former Met Donor says:

    The more I’ve learned about both the Met’s Board of Directors and Mr. Gelb, the stronger resolve I feel in demanding my donations back from Metropolitan Opera Association (a non-profit).

    I donated with the specific purpose of supporting the artistry of Opera singers and those who empower and support them throughout the Met’s organization to be “The world’s greatest singers on the world’s greatest stage.”

    Pursuant to their narcissistic actions, neither I no my colleagues wish to financially embolden such non-humanitarian behavior.

    They have chosen to treat those they depend upon the most like a ‘for-profit’ institution and as if they have little to no assets, cash reserves or stocks to liquidate in order to treat people they literally demand the world from like human beings.

  • Herr Doktor says:

    It’s obvious to me at least that the Met is trying to do its workers a favor. By laying them off, they can get unemployment and thus have continuity of income at a time when the Met’s income goes to zero. Yet by agreeing to continue to pay their healthcare coverage, the Met is also taking care of their own people by ensuring they are covered in a time of crisis.

    It strikes me as a deft, humane, and very smart approach to an impossible problem. Kudos to Peter Gelb and the unions for finding a workable solution.

    • Pagano says:

      The solo singers who are independent contractors are not eligible for unemployment compensation and have to buy their own health insurance.

      • Willymh says:

        Which is unfortunately the case for most contracted workers everywhere including those of us not in the musical world; however is this post not addressing the orchestra and chorus who are unionized and salaried?

      • Herr Doktor says:

        In an impossible situation where you (the leadership) have zero incoming revenues, very large fixed costs, and likely don’t have hundreds of millions of dollars sitting around that can be used to fund losses, you try and craft the best possible solution that can take care of as many people as possible in the best possible way. Paying the health insurance for the Met’s laid-off employees is a HUGE gift to their staff and one everyon should be grateful for given the circumstances. Yes, there may be people/stakeholders who won’t fall under this umbrella, and that’s not anything anyone can feel good about. But if you (the leadership) can craft a solution that preserves the well-being (under the circumstances) of many employees although not all of them, then that’s still a victory.

        The perfect can not be the enemy of the good when one is dealing with a crisis of this magnitude. This is existential.

    • drummerman says:


  • Pastore says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but as this was clearly a case of force majeure I’m not sure the union had the right to okay or not okay any action taken by the Met. And, what does everyone think the Met should have done? Pay everyone full salary with no ticket revenue for two months. Just curious.

    • clarity says:

      Good questions Pastore.

      Also, is the Met Board refusing their compensation during this difficult period of uncertainty?

      How about the Administration who are no longer needed as the season has now been cancelled (see their news page with Peter’s video address yesterday).

      Indeed ticket sales have gone down precipitously in the last few years with the disinterest in opera by the younger generation, so why waste money on expensive non-talent suits??

      • Anon says:

        If you actually know what you are talking about, please elaborate on this Met Board compensation you refer to.

      • The View from America says:

        I would expect to see staff layoffs being announced as a matter of course.

        Who would want to keep a bunch of people around who aren’t doing anything? The only place where that happens is federal government offices, where the bureaucratic hoops one has to jump through to terminate staff are so exhaustive and exhausting, few managers ever make the effort to do so.

      • Arts Admin says:

        Boards of 501(c)3 not-for-profits do not receive compensation. They give (at high levels) and govern.

        • Arts Admin Supporter says:

          Clarity must be a Democrat.

          They don’t know how businesses work Arts Admin.

          Rich donors buy their way in for prestige, major perks and tax breaks in the form of plum consulting deals and contracts to begin with.

          Poor libtards can’t get a seat on those boards so they act like they’re more valuable than they are.

          Can’t wait until they publish the newest figures!

        • to be CLEAR! says:



        • On the SINGERS side first says:

          Considering your certitude (which I concur with), it should be quite an expedient process to MAKE GOOD ON THEIR CONTRACTS THROUGHOUT THIS SEASON and PAY their singers, players and support staff.

          One MUST be a member of the infamous 1% to be considered as a board member which is highly discriminatory particularly for this type of organization.

          Therefore it should be easy for these people to scrape together such a small amount considering their individual net worth.

      • Willymh says:

        Big corporate boards may get compensation but most cultural boards are volunteer and you are expected to contribute and find ways of generating revenue. If that is not the case with the Met do you happen to know what compensation they are receiving?

      • Bruce says:

        “Also, is the Met Board refusing their compensation during this difficult period of uncertainty?”

        LOL. Being on the board of a non-profit is something you pay for, not something you get paid for.

        From what I could find, in 2010 Met Opera board members were expected to give $250,000 per year: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/03/arts/03center.html

        • Thanks Bruce says:

          Indeed, being on the Board of the Met is RESERVED for the 1% only.

          Not those DUMB DemoCRAPS and SLOVENLY LibTURDS!!!!

      • Robert Levine says:

        The Met board is a volunteer board, most of whom give large sums of money to the Met.

        • ironic dem says:

          One must CLEARLY belong to the 1% that Democrats and Libs HATE!

          Apparently they’re all Republicans by their standards.

  • Jack says:

    Seems to me we’re all operating in an entirely new environment, and the niceties of contracts and MOUs probably have to be overlooked. Never in my memory have I seen all arts institutions in the world immediately closed down. Whether it’s a closed down bar that fires its lounge pianist to the Metropolitan Opera, none of them can just print money.

    I wish this page, and all other blogs out there, would become a hub for best practices where localities and institutions are trying to figure out a way to help artists who have been suddenly kicked to the curb instead of going conspiratorial to no good purpose. If the Met’s unions smell a rat, I’m sure they’re in a better position to address it than the usual know-it-all denizens frequenting blogs like this. Let the unions speak out if there’s reason to. All I know is that the Met — already in fragile circumstances — stands to lose $60,000,000 by the end of this season.

    I hope you keep posting more stories and notices from places where communities are coming together to help musicians, dancers, actors, and other artists who have been instantly put on the unemployment rolls through no fault of their own.

  • Razionale says:

    I expect that the Met is complying with the contracts in place, otherwise the players’ union would be saying so publicly.

  • Monsoon says:

    The Met would have absolutely talked to the union before doing this. While the contract may give the Met right to take action like this in extraordinary circumstances, it and the NLRA require them to inform the union about any changes to workplace conditions. And the fact that the union isn’t going ballistic seems to confirm they knew and blessed it. If musicians didn’t know, then that’s an issue of their union leadership not informing them.

    The union may also have little choice but to accept this deal. The Met is likely looking a major cash flow issues and their endowment is relatively small for an organization that has a $300 million budget.

    • Robert Levine says:

      It would be unusual in the extreme for the Local union to take any action regarding the collective bargaining agreement with the Met without the agreement of the musicians affected.

  • Willymh says:

    What seems to overlooked in many comments and in the tone of some of the reporting on here is that most cultural institutions, if they do not receive substantial government funding, have to consider the long term in making decisions about how to handle this crisis.

    I work with a small potatoes organization and we have cancelled our remaining concert and three fund raising events over the next two months. With the expenditures governments are putting out the chances of what little subsidy we get being increased, or even remaining in place at its current level, is scant. With the fluctuations on the stock markets donors will be in a less likely position to give and companies less able or perhaps even existing to lend their financial support. All this has to be taken into consideration when looking to next season or the season after. If the choice is between paying musicians for what remains of this season and never being able to pay them again, a choice has to be made. The possibility of doing both is what we all would like but for many that just isn’t viable.

    And again despite the tone of many reports and comments on here, I’m sure that there are very few Administrators that enjoy the choices they have had to make.

  • Helen Wynn says:

    The Met graciously and quickly refunded my tickets for five performances that would have been next weekend. I am thankful. So, when this crisis passes, I will be donating to the Met, if there is still a Met to donate to. Good health to all from the Aloha state.

  • NYer says:

    I hope after this disaster ppl will realize that just making money is not all and that sticking together and helping others in need is an essential part of humanity and should be used in the USA as well. As we will be better off for it at over the time as this here clearly shows.

    Germany can do it, the NL, Scandinavian countries – the only one that doesn’t is ‘Merica!

  • John Borstlap says:

    What a strange conincidence that the lamps in the MET look like the corona virus (picture), hanging like a fatal warning sign over the auditorium.