Peter Gelb suspends 41 staff

Peter Gelb suspends 41 staff


norman lebrecht

May 06, 2020

The Met’s general manager has told the New York Times that he has put 41 administrative staff of furlough and cut the hours of 11 more. That’s out of a total administration of 237.

All performing artists have long since been put on furlough.

Gelb’s mantra: ‘We need an administrative staff to keep the institution running without performances. The business of the Met has to go on.’



  • sam says:

    “The Metropolitan Opera’s nightly streams of archival performances have attracted robust audiences…”

    Yes, count me as one of those tuning in daily. I have also been following the Vienna Opera’s daily streaming.

    There is simply no comparison: in star power, in production value.

    No wonder the Met costs so much to run, it really is in a class of its own.

    The Vienna Opera of course has the Vienna Philharmonic in the pit, but at best when they sound gorgeous, the production on stage is just amateurish compared to the Met. But on average, the Vienna pit orchestra plays as though they were bored, going through the motions, ignoring the conductor altogether.

    The Met model is not sustainable: the house is too big, the costs are too high to attract the best talent, but you got to admit, when it’s done right, the results are incomparable.

    • LewesBird says:

      Sam, if you think that what the Met produces is remotely noteworthy, much less “incomparable” you’re either clueless or deluded. Most of their good stuff is not theirs — a large share of their output is either co-productions (where they’re just a financial partner, with the work being created in Europe), or, worse, simply stuff bought second hand (again, from Europe) from a catalogue of old successful works.

      Whatever they produce themselves is ghastly, gaudy, grotesque, garish claptrap, atrociously vulgar stuff — which is what it takes to have a shot at selling tickets in New York.

      I don’t blame the Met for any of this — they have an aN awful predicament and this it the only possible way. They have a gigantic house the majority of whose patrons, particularly the moneyed ones, being too crass, philistine, and unsophisticated to like anything other than this rubbish. And of course, this is a country where there are no subsidies.

      Of course, musically — both vocally and instrumentally — the Met is top notch, but that’s nothing special. Most houses of this calibre are top notch. The game is played on the staging, not on the music.

      Pity the Met. Gelb’s job must be the least desirable in the whole operatic world.

      • jlibrarian says:

        Is it possible to have a preference for something without insulting the other?

        I have been to the Met many times (a short drive up I95 for me) but have never attended an opera in Vienna. It’s an error I hope to correct one day when this mess is over!

        In the meantime I am enjoying the livestreams from both houses as each are wonderful and unique in their own way.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          It is fine that you like the Met, but please don’t then swallow their ridiculous line that they are somehow the pinnacle of the opera world. They are one of several very good opera houses, and nobody really considers them the most important house musically or artistically.

      • Emil says:

        Co-productions don’t produce themselves – someone has to commission them, buy them, etc. And if I take the example of their co-productions with the Opera Festival in Québec, these are very much designed with a view to the Met from the start. In fact, the Met on purpose co-produces these with a view to giving them a first outing elsewhere, with less pressure, constraints, etc. to test them before they get to the big stage. So pretending they shouldn’t get any credit because they are co-produced is incorrect.

      • Bruce says:

        “I disagree with you [on something that is a matter of opinion], therefore you are wrong.”


      • Jack says:

        “Whatever they produce themselves is ghastly, gaudy, grotesque, garish claptrap, atrociously vulgar stuff . . .”

        You paint with a brush six feet wide. That makes it hard to take seriously anything you say.

      • ” ghastly, gaudy, grotesque, garish claptrap, atrociously vulgar stuff”

        “What did you expect from an opera? A happy ending?”

      • Ms.Melody says:

        Just to clarify, when you speak of “ghastly, gaudy, grotesque, garish claptrap, atrociously vulgar staff”, are you referring to the recent productions, such as dead on arrival La Traviata, Rigoletto in Las Vegas, Cosi in Conney island, etc, or productions by Zeffirelli, Ponnelle, Otto Schenk?. The vocal and instrumental level at the Met is at an all-time low. It is almost impossible to attend a performance where singing by the entire cast is acceptable, let alone, good or inspiring. As they keep pushing their overrated stars, it will only get worse.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          It was ever thus. Anyone with a sepia tinted memory is ignoring the everyday reality of the Met during its golden age. For every fabulous production with great singers at the peak of their career; there were also a large number of rather mundane productions by scarcely known singers of moderate quality. It is just that we forget about those nights when recalling the past.

      • Harold Croft says:

        As a music teacher the production is not the primary reason to attend the Opera …it is the music the music the music … save your gorgeous or innovative set to the ballet which is all about visual. Great when you have a fantastic singing actor like Callas but without the voice STAY HOME.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          Er…that might be why you go. But most people who go want to see a piece of musical theatre.

    • Monsoon says:

      Proclaiming that the “The Met model is not sustainable” is uninformed Monday morning quarterbacking.

      The opportunity is to increase revenue has been there all along, but they’ve just been slow.

      For example, the Met waited until this season to adjust its schedule to the habits of tickets buyers, specifically eliminating Monday night concerts that had the worst attendance, adding Sunday matinees (matinees have historically had the best attendance), and going dark in February when sales are down across the board (Broadway has the same problem) and extending the season into June.

    • Peter says:

      Oh dear… the Met nowadays is “glorious“ just for a bunch of people on another blog… otherwise, in the past 10 years the Met has been unflattering and has a serious problem with ticket sales just because of their bad management, with the same 2-3 stars singing 3-4 months in a season, everything costly for boring (but expensive) productions that they have only kept for 4-5-7 years and then changed… Sponsors have withdrawn because they want diversity, not see AN in literally every role, not to see Peter Gelb dismissing all other opera singers by saying that AN is their “star” and “reigning diva”… how did Fleming feel while seeing this and after singing from her living-room at the Home gala?
      I remember going to the Met and seeing so many sold out performances, with the brightest singers out there…
      I now stick to Europe and don’t bother crossing the Atlantic for the Met anymore.
      The Met today is really a sad shadow of what it used to be… who does not see that is a hypocrite, just like Gelb…

      • Yes Addison says:

        I doubt Fleming, who hadn’t sung a staged opera at the Met (or anywhere else) for nearly three years at the time of that at-home gala, would consider herself in the running for the title of the Met’s reigning diva. If there is such a thing, it’s someone important to the house’s plans in its present and future, and Netrebko does qualify.

    • Joe says:

      Yes, people flock to concerts when it’s free.

    • Edgar says:

      I do not necessarily have to see Met or Vienna operas, I am happy to hear them.

      As for the Met: I, too, think the house is way too big and no longer viable in a changing cultural landscape, irrespective of Covid19. It is a huge barn and should be gutted and replaced by an auditorium half its current size or slightly larger. Stage and dressing rooms need at least a serious overhaul or upgrade. Now is the time for a radical renewal and transformation, while the worldwide audience enjoys streamed archival content.

      What is is actually much more needed is the radical re-think of how opera’s relevance can be positioned and strengthened for a future of which no one has (yet) any idea of how that will look like. Simply going back to pre-Covid19 business as usual is illusory.

      So, the online streams are indeed precious: they present opera as it has been perceived in the past.

      Will de Met be the place of daring creative imagination which is not afraid to think outside of its current guilded box?

      As for Vienna: it will always remain what Claus Helmut Drese aptly called it, the Palace of Emotion, “Palast der Gefühle” – on and behind and off the stage, reaching even into the highest echelons of the Austrian government…

    • Tristan says:

      the biggest joke I ever heard – the MET is a monster, no atmosphere, mostly bad productions and what you write about the orchestra isn’t true either – Vienna, Munich, Berlin, La Scala and London are all better and on a very good day they all berat the huge and cold house in NY – how can one compare the Vienna Philharmonic with the MET Orchestra. You should see an ear doctor

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Question: what is the difference between suspension and furlough? Why does the press release mention furlough while the headline mentions suspending?

    • Jeff says:

      Suspension sounds more exciting! More bing bang boom click here and wowee!@%!!$$$$$…….but yes, furlough is the CORRECT term

    • DAVID says:

      There is no difference. It just sounds more acceptable and less ominous. In practice the result is exactly the same.

    • drummerman says:

      Furlough means they are eligible to collect unemployment checks. 41 out of 236 is a drop in the bucket. Won’t do much to alleviate the Met’s financial woes.

  • Pat says:

    It will not be too long before they discover they can get along with a good bit less than 237 folks.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Yes, but those remaining will all be senior administrators at ridiculously inflated salaries (multi six-figure compensation that most could never hope for in the private sector). Won’t they be surprised when they realize that the real work had always been done by hourly staff…

  • Edgar Self says:

    On the bright side, both suspension and furlough suggest the possibility of return. And hasn’t Gelb suspended his own salary without benefit of furlough?

  • Scott says:

    Gelb has turned the Met into a movie theater. Ticket prices have soared since he began running the Met, the audiences disappeared, and for the most part, the productions have become ridiculous. Do we need video to keep the audience occupied? The audience never stays to applaud the singers – just an immediate,
    mindless standing ovation, and quickly get out of the opera house. It’s sad. I wish Levine was back at the house.

    • C Fisk says:

      Sure bring Levine back so he can chase little boys backstage in his wheelchair
      What the Met needs is a pedofile.

      • Yvonne Fisk says:

        Well…Peter and the MET Board ENABLED Jimmy’s indulgences for decades when times were good.

        When the $$$ is rolling in you’ll do anything to keep it that way!

  • fflambeau says:

    It’s easy to see what Gelb is all about from watching the online met broadcasts. Every one I’ve seen, Gelb is in it.
    He needs to be the center of attention; a kind of more competent Trump.

    • PrimaDiva says:

      Never read Gelb’s bio so I don’t even know if he went to music school. I have no idea who he is or what his credentials are. I heard he was at Sony Music Classical before he came to the Met. And as soon as he got there he cut singers. Like Ruth Ann Swenson had cancer and he messed with her. He just irked me from the get go. There is nothing anyone can ever say to make me like that man. He should have a meet and greet so the world can discover who HE is so he can stop using the Met as his identity platform. Because I could never associate him
      with the Mets great history. He is just a dirtball that got caught in the wash. Somebody anybody please come take over this job so the board can vote him out. Music. Opera. Deserves a real person.

      • Ken says:

        Gelb never went to school school. Left Yale after a week. As to how he got in in the first place, well…

  • John says:

    Same old story – admin gets paid and the musicians don’t. Damn it.