Grim news: One-third of Met Opera musicians have quit New York

Musicians of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, who have been upaid since April 1 this year, say 30 percent of their number can no longer afford to live in the New York area and are seeking new lives elsewhere.

Peter Gelb, the Met general manager, has said he will only pay the musicians if they agree to radically reduced rates.

Federal support for the musicians is non-existent.

The musicians have commissioned a study with Princeton University on the safety of singing opera during Covid-19. It’s a work in progress, but the virus is not going away any time soon. We’ll keep you posted.


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    • The Met is clearly not that special any longer.

      They’ve admitted as much in having too large a hall to fill; hence relying on the past. They show old operas from the ‘80’s and ‘90’s when the house had high standards which have been obviously diluted today. Most of the singers haven’t the proper bel canto technique to hold a candle to their predecessors. We haven’t had a REAL Verdian voice since Aprile Millo who’s as fat as the Met now, poor thing. She at least set standards! That’s all one hears about in the press and has been reflected in the lack of audience.

      The Met can easily sell some assets and stocks off just like everyone else is having to do. They’ve done it in recent years in auctioning off numerous items along with the Met Guild.

      A smaller space is in their future if the want to survive. Their arrogant treatment of singers leaves little hope though.

        • Aprile and her ilk should not be shaming anybody considering her own identical faults of weight, age and coloring in her own photos on top of offensively blacking-up for Aida. She also should have been brave enough to speak out on Levine knowing the damage he’s wrought yet she is ok with it and allowed countless victims to suffer and die alone.

          Being a liberal only when it suits you is old hat though.

          Instead of displaying her hate and negativity, it would serve her better to express a more ‘healthy’ dimension of herself perhaps trumpeting how positively she feels about Biden predicated on specific policies. Sticking up for Jimmy’s victims would be a humanitarian statement but she’s just not the woman we used to respect.

          Sadly these rants are what’s become of her glorious career:
          “If I were Trump and I’m so glad I’m not, I wouldn’t be fighting so hard to get the supreme court lackey because once she’s voted in the GOP have no reason to support him.They just used him to make it a supreme cult. Trump is stupid we all knew it
          @ProjectLincoln

          @neal_katyal
          2:49 AM · Oct 16, 2020·Twitter for iPhone”

          “Trump has Attention deficit disorder. He wants his ego fix. Don’t let him say all better before it is.
          @KaivanShroff

          @JRubinBlogger

          @tribelaw

          @JoeBiden

          @funder
          5:46 PM · Mar 23, 2020”

    • CNN needs to get educated by some opera stars too!!!!!

      They ran a spot on Broadway the other day and it’s the same for all of those poor souls abandoned by De Blasio, Cuomo, Hochul and Pelosi. They’re going broke, getting woke and LEAVING NYC!!

      via CNN, the voice of the perpetually offended victim:
      https://youtu.be/9nFn74aBpoo

  • It’s my understanding that in the US that if one quits a job without a good reason, and I believe that a reduced pay rate if it is applied in a non discriminatory way is not considered a good reason, am employee will not be eligible for unemployment insurance and therefore will be ineligible for the Covid assistance “top up”.

    Incidentally, in the US an employer is partially responsible for individual unemployment insurance payments, IN ADDITION to the taxes for unemployment insurance already paid, if it puts employees on unemployment but does not go out of business, which is probably why the MET reduced the pay rather than laid off the Orchestra.

    In Manhattan a one room “studio” apartment can run over $3500 per month and many of the younger musicians are paying off ten of thousands, in some cases hundreds if thousands, of dollars in student loans.

    Therefore I do hope that the musicians’ union can fight this. The MET is still raising millions through their nightly internet opera video broadcasts as well as other fund raising such as aggressive telephone solicitors.

      • The board, most donors and poor Peter are certainly reveling in their white privilege while others have been so…….expendable.

        Typical limousine liberal victimhood as they feather their own nest.

        Can’t believe people actually are still dumb enough to look up to folks like this as “college educated” as they’re supposed to be while they go broke and homeless. It’s pretty funny compared to their hatred of Trump as their own party knifes ‘em.

      • Pardon me, but your ignorance is showing by the common mistranslation of the “cake” quote. Should I therefore assume you are not a priviliged white?

      • You’re right on the layoffs NY Mike. The MET screwed everybody EQUALLY which liberals adore. EQUALLY!!!

        Gelb’s Vimeo video to everyone he hires (employees and contractors) is the focus. He arrogantly believes people will take drastic pay cuts to embolden his fragile ego due to the status the met represents.

        People can’t afford to patronize this man-child who has notoriously run the company poorly. Look at the steadily declining BOX OFFICE figures in their own financial statements and NYT reports of singers staring out into a 1/2 full hall during most performances.

        This has left the singers along with everyone else left to starve.

        Here’s what’s called a ‘source’:

        https://vimeo.com/461057473/e0c8cc69a1

        • Unfortunately, the tired argument of the necessity to introduce “new exciting” productions of contemporary opera has a grip on the Met. Orchestra, Parterre, Dress Circle, and Grand Tier seats run upward to $500. A performance of some of these atonal and downright weird operas lead to $500 headache and a dash for the exits. The thought that an opera company must trash Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, and Bizet, etc from the repertoire in favor of new, up to date productions will lead to an empty house night after night.
          The Washington National Opera is barely surviving, however a few years ago they threw caution to the wind and cancelled most of their new productions and replaced them with a steady stream of La Boheme which helped them survive the season. The Met needs to respond to what they know will keep the box office humming and the turnstiles whirling. This idea that contemporary, new, odd and noisy productions pandering to the under 30’s crowd will bring in a new generation of opera lovers is nonsense! Yet they insist of this concept at the expense of those who have supported the Met for years and recognize great opera when they hear it.

    • Neither Mr. Lebrecht nor commenters seem to be educated on what AGMA is and their obvious responsibility to their current members.

      There are highly trained, well informed professional readers who have insight, no??

    • How are they “raising millions” through their nightly video offerings since they’re shown for free? And you think that telefunding is bringing in millions? You don’t know much about fundraising – especially fundraising in today’s environment.

      • A couple of months ago Gelb boasted that these “free” videos had brought in 60 million dollars. There is always a fund raising appeal, as there is in the Opera in HD, and since people are grateful for the free performances they tend to give something which is easy to do through computers and a credit card.

        Although of course the videos are open to everybody most of the people who tend to watch it are at least middle class to begin with and to make it worthwhile to watch one needs a large computer monitor, a powerful and newish computer (otherwise there will be buffering), and a fast (also relatively expensive), internet connection.

        It’s also hard to turn down a telephone solicitor if one knows that he/she is on commission. I cannot answer my phone without screening my calls for that reason.

        • Is your argument that 1) Gelb shouldn’t be raising money if he’s not paying everyone? or 2) There’s an economic disparity in who has the ability to watch the Met videos? (That the Met has a responsibility address, I guess…?) or 3) The Met telefunding solicitors should stop bothering you? Because you want the Met to stop raising money because it’s annoying to you…..? Whatever your point is, my high school debate coach just gave you an F.

          • Singers and chorus members obviously vote with “1) Gelb shouldn’t be raising money if he’s not paying everyone”.

            Academic arguments contrived by people like yourself are moot when real people have gone broke and are loosing their homes. Besides, you’re not capable of telling anybody how much Peter’s little emergency gala brought in let alone where just that little amount went. You must go to high school in a blue state with deteriorating buildings. Typical lefty girl.

          • I was not discussing a “little emergency gala”; I was discussing the Met’s daily opera video internet broadcasts.

            I was not saying that the Met needs to keep everyone on payroll in these circumstances. In fact, even before Covid I felt that the Met spent far, far too much money (and employees) on stage production.

            I also was not saying that the Met should not continue to try to raise money. I was just saying that the fund raising situation of the Met is probably not dire.
            When it comes to economic policy I am indeed “lefty” but I am conservative in other things.

        • Actually you don’t need computer at all. Modern Smart TVs can be connected to the internet and they have built-in browser.

    • The orchestra is not being paid and has indeed been furloughed as of mid-March. Gelb is using the crisis as a bludgeon to get what he always wished for: to break the union and undo the contracts that have been negotiated in good faith over the years. This is the hardest working orchestra in the world and is deserving of the pay scale and benefits that they have worked hard to get over the years. The man at the top doesn’t seem to get it. He may end up destroying one of the great orchestras in the world, not to mention the great Met chorus.

      • Bardo, you are absolutely correct! I still have difficulty understanding what it takes to be in the orchestra pit or singing onstage with the chorus on a Saturday with a matinee and an evening performance.

      • “He may end up destroying one of the great orchestras in the world, not to mention the great Met chorus.”

        I get the feeling he is quite aware of that, and is just fine with it.

        • Are you saying that he’s responsible for the inability to let audiences into the hall? I’m not a Gelb fan, but there isn’t something he could have done to save the day. Our field is a bloodbath right now and it’s not going to get better for a while.

      • The Met is nowhere near the best top 10 in the world. Guess a lot of commenter have not travelled the world much.
        Americans especially New Yorkers, DO have the biggest egos of anywhere in the Universe!

  • The problem for the Met is, if they pay the musicians, they have to pay every other craft union (stagehands, chorus, costumes, etc.) as well. This is not a problem the New York Philharmonic has, for instance, hence the reason the musicians are still on modified pay. The Met simply does not have the money to do it; the stagehands salaries alone are ruinous (some of them make $400,000+), and the Met would be bankrupt within a few months unless everyone agrees to draconian pay cuts.

    Unfortunately, there will he no further stimulus money until after the election.

    But on the bright side, Trump’s employed elite millionaire economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, thinks all of this “creative destruction” is good.

    • Thoughtful comment, however while it is true that the Met could pay everyone (not should), unless one is privy to Confidential information, one shouldn’t assume that the Met would “go bankrupt unless everyone agrees to draconian cuts”. To my knowledge there hasn’t been a financial release statement made that was completely forthcoming.

    • The union contracts at The Met are not contingent on each other. You can prioritize saving your orchestra and chorus since they are the lifeblood of an opera company. It’s unfortunate that these are the choices they are faced with, but there are choices here.

      • Local 1 stagehands union is extremely powerful. One of the most powerful unions in NY. Nothing happens without Local 1 on board at the Met, or any union theater in NY, for that matter. Anytime in recent history there has been a successful work action by theater/opera musicians in NY, it’s because local 1 was on board with the musicians. The Musicians union is nothing compared to them, and they can’t do anything unilaterally without Local 1’s blessing; it’s local 1 that had the real leverage. Nothing gets loaded in or out at a theater, no sets move, no stage lights come on. Unless the Musicians union is able to strike some sort of a deal with local 1 to support getting he selves paid while the stagehands don’t, they will get nothing. Local 1 has a well financed strike/emergency/contingency fund, that the musicians union simply can’t compete with.

        • My understanding is that the stagehands get paid when there is a show. The Union 1 contract doesn’t require the staging of shows. The Union 1 contract also doesn’t prevent the Met from putting the Local 802 musicians on a sort of retainer to help them avoiding having to move out of the city.

      • Bill and too many wimpy types blame everybody else but Pelosi, Schumer, Hochul, NY AG James, Cuomo, De Blasio, even AGMA for their “collective failures”.

        He and other Dems are highly insecure to begin with. When reality settles in to a situation, people of this sort instinctively project their personal distinctions on anybody they can in order to falsely embolden their position using antagonism and vituperative attacks.

        Look what it got them this time. A closed building, mass poverty and the loss of homes for a growing number of talented people.

        IT DIDN’T WORK…yet again kids!!

        The supposed “powerful, well-educated, experts” have ALLOWED for this to happen just to spite a man they are jealous of. Cuomo only sloppily announced yesterday that movie theaters could open in a week with a 25% capacity. After the LAWSUITS began for the uninformed I might add.

        People are still continuing to grocery shop at 100% all packed up in big stores and violently RIOT en masse getting everyone sick but the arts are too dangerous.
        Give me a f***in’ break!

        Your very own party brought this fear campaign on while you sit with no income, filing bankruptcy and going homeless.

        I’ve yet to hear what anyone on your side has DONE financially to help individual musicians, singers, creative artists pay their bills. From Pelosi down, they’ve done nothing hence this predictable article.

        Why is the left helplessly allowing this??? I’m sick of your inept blaming while people suffer!

        • It is the Dems that are trying to pass another decent recovery scheme in Congress which would include funding to state and local governments where a lot of the arts funding comes from.

          It’s hard to estimate how many lives were saved by a preventive lockdown especially during the crisis itself but the lives that the lockdown has saved might be your own

          I know that if my aunt’s home attendant (carer) who, it turns out, had Covid had been able to be tested earlier and had received decent sick pay from the government and so would not have been afraid to stay home, my aunt would still be alive today

        • Listen the numbers you are using are misleading. There may be a several department heads that make that kind of money but that includes all of their compensation (salary, insurance, vacation and sick keave.) Also they are on call 24hrs a day. Seven days a week. The vast majority of Local One employees at the Met don’t make anywhere near half those amounts. Keeping in mind that they generally work 70 to 80 work weeks. So the equivalent of two full-time jobs. Check out Mr. Gelb’s salary.

          • The Met stagehands are “on call” 24/7? Lots of opera emergencies requiring stagehands, are there? “Quick, Joe, get to the Met – Netrebko doesn’t like that chair where it is and we need eight of you to move it three feet downstage.” (And if they’re working 80 hours a week, I assure you it’s because of antiquated contract language and they are extremely well-compensated for it.)

          • Your comment here demonstrates what little you know about the workings of a major opera company. I used to work for a major company as a member of the chorus and watched, with respect, how the stagehands worked tirelessly and put in long hours to make sure that all of the physical aspects of opera production, staged rehearsals, new production constructions, etc., all happened seamlessly because they did work 70-80 hours a week. Those men and women earn every dime that they are owed. As an example, when a nightly production closes, those men and women have to remove that set and production properties in order to make available the stage for the following day’s rehearsal on the same stage of a different opera. Plus they set up the rehearsal rooms for other stagings that are required the following day. All this happens under a strict and complicated schedule to maintain safety for all who tread the stage or in specified rehearsals. So yes, they are on call 24/7, for the very reasons I stated above. You are definitely tone-deaf, because if you even looked at the complicated specs they have to follow for each and every production you’d be more respectful.

          • There is nothing wrong with questioning an overly-generous contract and it does not equal disrespect. It is completely ludicrous to say that the Met stagehands are on call 24/7. They’re really required to be available at a moment’s notice for the entire season? Laughable. And if individuals are working 16 hours a day (which they aren’t) you can be rest assured that maintaining “safety” isn’t a priority. Do you actually think that the entire staff of stagehands all work at the same time?? Stagehands in NYC do excellent work but their contracts (Met, Broadway, Carnegie, etc.) are a morass of opportunism, greed, nepotism and featherbedding.

          • For $400 K a year, we should all forget conservatories & higher education & just go straight to carpenter school to become stagehands.

          • Loading out one opera set and loading in another during a 7-show week with a Saturday matineé requires working through the night for some Local 1 stagehands. Your remarks are facetious.

    • Bill forgot to mention what Hillary Clinton has done on her own as a woman………………………………………………………………awfully quiet, isn’t it?

      • Furloughed, but with partial pay and benefits along with most of the other major US orchestras. Read your ICSOM bulletins, Nardo.

  • This is so sad. Watching the Met’s nightly broadcasts has shown what a treasure this cultural organization is. Watching the outcast Levine conduct and singers like Grigolo and Domingo, not to mention those who can no longer perform just rips my heart. But when the hosts interview backstage managers and they talk about the crews needed to herd these shows onstage…. one can see why opera needs a lot of money to survive, and why probably it won’t in the grand fashion many of us have come to expect.

  • That is why musicians of this caliber and who perform for such a renowned institution as the Met Opera should be on fixed salaries paid by the U.S. government regardless of the circumstances so they can continue to cultivate their art in times of crisis. Otherwise, art will suffer and our great culture may one day be lost.

    • Hmmm. I’m all for subsidies for the arts — as Joan Plowright once said, subsidies give artists “the all-important right to fail.” But even I draw the line at “fixed salaries paid by the US government.” This is a country that fights the very notion of universal health care. I’d much rather see public money go for that, and for solutions to homelessness, hunger and care for the elderly.

      However, given that in this time of a unique crisis many are getting assistance from the US government, I do rather think some accommodation should have been made for the artists and staff of the Met. But some of it should have been made by the Met, which seems to be saving its resources for a rainy day while ignoring the fact that it is bucketing outside.

    • Yes, but the only problem is musicians who are paid by govts in other countries make only a fraction of what MET musicians make. Why do you think there are so many musicians from countries where govts support the arts playing in orchs like the MET? Because they make 4 times the salary in a US privately funded orch.

      There is no govt in the world that is going to support the orchestra salaries that organizations like the MET, LA Phil, etc. pay.

      But you’re right – speaking as one of those EU musicians whose salary is paid for by the govt. – we have suffered zero interruptions in our pay, and have been 100% protected thruout the pandemic. However, the reduced weekly salary which Gelb is offering per week for musicians during this time is what musicians in my orch. earn in one month.

      • The Met Orchestra is NOT getting a reduced salary from The Met. They are furloughed WITHOUT PAY. The New York Phil, someone mentioned above, is getting partial salary – as is EVERY MAJOR orchestra of equal caliber in the country. This is something many have trouble digesting. No compensation! Other orchestras are getting compensated.

        • Yes- I had been given incorrect information: the season of the NY PHIL has indeed been canceled, but unlike the Met and other organizations, they are being paid.

          • I believe all of the big seven US orchestras are getting some sort of reduced salary and benefits. That includes NY, BSO, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Chicago, SF and LA. And of course the Met Orchestra is on the same level as these 7 orchestras. It is terrible what Gelb and the board is doing to the soloists, musicians and chorus of the Met. They need to use some creative thinking to find a way to keep everyone together and to promote the institution in this terrible time.

        • Thank you for the correction. The original article here says Met players are being offered reduced wages. Someone else in the thread gave a figure. That’s what I was referring to. Apparently that’s incorrect.

      • I believe that the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics, the Concertgebouw and the Bavarian Radio Orchestras actually do pretty well financially.

  • “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”
    Unfortunately I hear the fat lady singing at the Metropolitan Opera

  • Unfortunately the Met was ineligible for PPP funds due to the size of the organization. Does anyone know if the NY Phil, LA, or any other orchestras that are continuing to pay their musicians received PPP loans?

  • The Left/Liberal bunch, including the vast majority in any way associated with The Arts, are so consumed with their hatred and oppression to Trump, about which they are absolutely correct and justified, that they are deaf and blind to the total ineptitude and failure of their party, the Democrats. This entire profession and industry needs to start demanding appropriate action from those they support and this will require an effort that will leave little time for their favorite, and justified, endeavor of bashing Trump. They need to realize that the latter activity is never will advance their very justifiable cause, while the former, at least, has a possibility of doing so.

  • I get fund raising appeal letters from The Actors Fund and other charities which help New York City performers, including musicians, all the time.

    Doesn’t the MET participate in some scheme where non profits are allowed to sell stock or something equivalent to it?

  • Fascinating! But it makes me so sad that all the wonderful musicians can not afford to remain at the MET with pay, while so many other “industries” are getting financial help to maintain a life until a COVID 19 vaccine is found!
    My heart goes out to ALL OF YOU! Such a HUGE LOSS FOR US!!!

  • As a lifelong opera lover at 78, I am emotionally devastated at this news which could result in The Met going the way of the New York City Opera unless it can be “propped up” with grants which is probably doubtful at this time. That means that only prayer can help. Losing The Met would be a devastating major disaster from which it may never recover. Let’s please pray!!

  • My only personal experience with members of the MET orchestra was at intermission at an opera there several years ago. I’d traveled a long way, spent a large part of my modest travel budget on a ticket & I came down from my “cheap seat” at intermission – thrilled to have the chance to see the legendary orchestra pit up close.

    I am also a professional orch. musician, in a much lesser known orchestra. I’ve played in many a pit in my day & to see the MET pit and musicians in person up close was the experience of a lifetime for me. These musicians were my heroes.

    I smiled from ear to ear as I stood at the lip of the pit, in admiration. There were 2 string players standing just below me, in conversation. They were women about my age. I smiled at them appreciatively and nodded slightly, an unspoken “bravo!”.

    They both glared at me, and the woman holding a cello barked “What do YOU want?” It was like “We are the great musicians of the MET orchestra & you are not allowed look at us.” Horrified, I scurried back to my seat, completely crestfallen. I never attended a live performance at the MET again.

    As a professional musician, I have had many encounters with audience members. People often stand at the lip of the pit at intermission, looking at the musicians. People I don’t know smile at me or say “bravo”. I am always polite and appreciative. Even the world’s greatest musicians are gracious to their audience members.

    These 2 women of the MET orchestra, haughty and arrogant and rude and extraordinarily well-paid at that time broke that code. If they are any example of the character of the musicians of the MET orch, I have a hard time finding sympathy for them in this situation. They were the only MET musicians I have ever had personal contact with and I have no desire to know any more after that. They’ve lost their jobs? Let them return to their hometown regional orchestras and take ordinary orchestra jobs that pay ordinary salaries. Let them return to their home countries where orchestras pay modestly.

    Above all, let them learn the humility that we, the musicians who play in those uncelebrated orchestras know so well.

  • Glen is doing the right thing by forcing concessions from the unions. Speaking of which is the AFM – Villains, Thieves, and Scoundrels union.

  • I was forced to leave NYC due to this nonsense. I got a 30% pay cut in March that is still ongoing at my day job, and the singing opera at night completely dried up. I don’t know why the governor, mayor, and Gelb want to ruin what is beautiful and grand about NYC, but I guess they’re doing it. I went to film all of the hospitals, the morgue, the Central park tents, the Javits Center, etc. repeatedly during “peak death,” and it was a whole lot of “peak lying.” All of the places they said were overflowing with people were nearly empty. It’s time to stop the nonsense. No government should have the right to stop people from making a living and having freedom. Why we trust the government and media after the WMDs in Iraq lie that ended with more than 1 million deaths of Iraqis and US soldiers is beyond me. I stopped believing anything they said after that.

  • as a former member of the metropolitan opera house id like to say this is completely unacceptable this has everything to do with the miss management bu peter gelb as he rscks in all the funds from hd shoots and now the met online subscriptions all he’s done is line his pockets and force the crews, signers, and other metropolitan opera staff are left unpaid and un appreciated. in all and all hes no Joe Volpe and will never fill his shoes…

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