Peter Gelb: Joe Biden won’t change our world

Peter Gelb: Joe Biden won’t change our world


norman lebrecht

November 14, 2020

The general manager of the Met has been talking to France-Musique about Covid, Met closure and the future.

He said the US Government takes a passive attitude to the arts no matter which party is in power and the only way for the Met to survive is for its employees to accept a large pay cut.

For opera to survive in a sustainable way, everyone who works in opera must understand the importance of the costs, especially in New York where everything is more expensive […] and today we must agree to lower these salaries….

More here.

See also: Met concertmaster lands job in Germany


  • rp says:

    what about your salaries, dear peter?????
    you are willing to reduce your overwhelming income?

    • De Sean Orrire says:

      Peter the Great will simply pull out his White Privilege Card.

      With a fellow white to count on there’s no stopping him. Ahhh Biden! Our wealthy, white male savior will fix dis!!!

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        No, I don’t think so. What will fix dis is:

        1. Personal responsibility;
        2. Working your backsides off with as many people in work as possible;
        3. Training for real, live jobs instead of fantasy jobs which lead you to McDonalds.

        Otherwise Venezuela.

    • MWnyc says:

      Peter Gelb has been working without salary for months now.

  • EU person says:

    What about Yannick salary? Does he still get money for sitting at Canada?
    What a shameful person he is. He does nothing to help Met musicians. Online concerts – no, outdoor concerts (in Central Park for example) – no, thanks, it is better to sit at safe places in Canada.

    • Hal Sacks says:

      Yannick is in Philadelphia recording 1 hr. Concerts for the Orchestra’s Digital Stage subscriber Scheduled season.

      • EU person says:

        Oh.. Ok, Yannick is in Philadelphia, but not at NY. He does nothing to support Met musicians. Why is he still Met music director???
        Does any Met orchestra member is still respect Yannick?

    • John says:

      Very thoughtful comment. He’s nowhere to be seen. History will see people’s actions or inactions during this pandemic.

  • Lindsay Groves says:

    I wish the musical talent drawn to work at the Met because it is located in Manhattan was reflected in its management. Obviously not.

  • Gustavo says:

    Nor will the MET.

  • Maria says:

    The world of opera bubble was bound to burst one day with all the recorded music and YouTube, and now accelerated by the pandemic. Audiences were getting depleated in many opera houses in the English-speaking world before the pandemic and people voting with their feet over the whacky productions that got in the way of the music and the singers trying to sing hanging from a ceiling or something! Now with the inevitable lack of money around, only the rich will soon be the only ones going to the opera when or if it ever returns to anything we know other than in a drive-in or Wagner in a car park. It is all tragic and Gelb on this issue of pay cuts is not far wrong, and not just for the Met. I know a lot of you don’t like him on here – I have never met him except on the big live cinema showings in England so I can’t comment.

    • Nijinsky says:

      Very Funny, but could you please not encourage them.

      I’m just waiting to see Mimi come dangling down from the ceiling with six extra limbs as a spider, singing how she spins webs like flowers that don’t smell in comparison to the others, since you mentioned sopranos trying to sing dangling form the ceiling.

      They already put Mimi on the moon

  • Let them eat cake. says:

    Shameless opportunist!

  • V.Lind says:

    I hope he means more than the musicians. The unions have a vise-like grip on the Met, and although I would be the last one to undervalue the work of people who get the production on the stage, dressed and set and lit and staffed, they strike me as very seriously overpaid.

    I would imagine administrative staff are also highly compensated.

    What irks me is that every time companies have to cut back, they start with the one group that draws in their revenue — the artists. Maybe they could get by on a cut, too, but I certainly do not think that the venture can be saved by paying oboists less while stage hands collect $400,000 a year and secretaries have wardrobes full of Manolos and Jimmy Choos.

    The Met’s problem, aside from sharing the widespread problem of interesting people in attending opera in the first place, is that barn of a house, whose size has long since outworn its usefulness. As it is impractical to contemplate much by way of alteration, especially after a sustained period without audience revenue, I suggest the Met start by forgetting about percentage of seats sold and start measuring against a more practical number of seats sold.

    Sell “good” seats for lower prices rather than fill up the cheap seats — let the “cheap” seats be better than they used to be. (E.g. close off the highest balcony and the very rear orchestra — get people closer to the stage). They’re not filling the house anyway, so the people there might as well have a better experience — generating better word of mouth — and the artists have a fuller-looking hall. And if, in the fullness of time there is a reversal, and opera becomes a go-to event again, there they are with their huge barn.

    • Hayne says:

      Good points. Very true about unions, unfortunately.

      • David Smith says:

        Met stagehands earn the lowest hourly rate of any Local 1 shop in New York City. The Met’s labor cost problem is one of mismanagement, and the nature of a repertory company that, with rehearsals, has to change sets two or three times every day. The Met cannot solve it’s financial problems on the backs of it’s employees.

    • William Safford says:

      A small detail: the sound in the nose bleed seats at the top of the Met is excellent, and the sight lines are reasonable. If you bring opera glasses (I bring small binoculars), those seats are both sonically rewarding and a serious bargain. I often choose to sit up there even when I could afford to sit in a closer seat. N.B. Those with acrophobia should probably sit elsewhere.

  • Nicholas says:

    Mr. Gelb really is a moron. The answer is NOT in cutting the salaries of some of the finest musicians in the world. The answer is to find donors who share in a collective vision. Non-profits do this the world over. Mr. Gelb seems to be entrenched in a model that only involves ticket holders because he has no other vision. He sits at the helm of one of America’s greatest institutions and the only lens he sees it through is lower the cost and raise the prices.

    To use religious institutions as an example, the way out of the financial mess is to put forth a vision for the future and stakeholders will either support or reject the vision. Successful churches, for example, don’t create themselves. There are multiple levels of leadership. Sadly, the Met doesn’t seem to have any at the moment. When you let some of the finest musicians walk out the door like they are nothing but easily replaceable robots, you have absolutely no vision. Great music is only part of the history of the Metropolitan Opera and I am sure that there are thousands of people who would support it simply as a cultural institution if they were asked. And where, exactly, is the board in all of this? Clearly Mr. Gelb is not doing all of this by himself. Maybe there needs to be some administrative housecleaning on multiple levels.

    • Stephen Owades says:

      You seriously believe that the Metropolitan Opera hasn’t thought of raising money from deep-pocketed donors? You must not be an American, or at least one that has ever given money to or bought a ticket from the Met. They couldn’t exist at all without donors—and the proportion of funds from donations has obviously risen in this time of zero ticket revenue—and they have a prodigious fund-raising operation.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Opera and art music are becoming increasingly unfashionable in the brave new world of ‘white privilege’ and ‘toxic masculinity’. Why in the world would anybody choose to ‘celebrate’ these things in the operatic tradition? They’re so yesterday. Where are the SJW works for concert hall, so that we can all sit in the audience and praise the composer and cast for their impeccable virtues? And then be bored out of our tiny minds. Anything remotely ‘elite’ will be cast asunder in the identitarianism in the new government you people are facing in the USA. Just as rap artists were fetishized under Obama, you’re going to see the ruler run over major works of art to see if they conform to the appropriate ideology. Gelb and his management will be small beer.

  • Ed says:

    So, Gelb, what pay cut are you taking out of interest in terms of %.
    Are you going to lead by example and be transparent in the process?

  • Gina says:

    Gelb’s argument is seriously flawed. Since everything is more expensive in New York, it’s obvious that it’s more expensive to live there. No wonder over a third of the Met Orchestra musicians have already moved out of the New York area! Gelb is looking for permanent cuts to the musicians’ salaries in order to help the Met recover from a temporary problem. It’s shameful to take advantage of the pandemic in order to fix problems that he himself caused by years of mismanagement.

  • Richard Sonnenschein says:

    No, Joe Biden won’t change the world of opera, and the Met’s productions of excessive extravagance won’t change the world most of us live in.

    The composers of opera in collaboration with voices and musicians, however, have changed our world, and will continue to do so, no matter who is running government and opera houses.

    Cut excess, Mr. Gelb. Unfetter opera from the many burdensome and unnecessary financial chains including overpaid General Managers hobbling it.

  • Jonathan says:

    Peter Gelb is full of it. He wants to cut salaries while claiming that everything is more expensive in NY. So starve out musicians, choristers, and tech personnel is the answer, in a city where everything costs more?
    Funny, he doesn’t talk about reducing his own exorbitant salary. His privilege is showing, and it’s threadbare. The sooner he’s gone, the better.

  • Isidore Bhigmen says:

    ‘For PETER to survive in a sustainable way, everyone who works in opera must understand the importance of the costs”. Give me a fucking break. Right now he’s sitting behind his big oak desk in his fancy apartment on 67th and Central Park West and he’s telling the musicians to take less money to live in NYC? Seriously? Fuck you Gelb, and the thin lips you rode in on. You know nothing. Opera will survive. It’s not a business. The profit is ART. You had a decade to raise money and all you do is spend it on poppy fields and dumb ass wagnerian see saw sets. You have no artistic vision. If you did, you wouldn’t put yourself on screen as much as you do. BTW- black suits with black T-shirts are not your look. Please stop trying so hard. It’s embarrassing.

  • Alviano says:

    How much a cut is Gelb taking?

  • Pat Tatum says:

    I am convinced that I will see the day the Met declares bankruptcy.

  • Simon Scott says:

    Bye bye economy.
    This farce has got to stop. NOW!

  • B. Guerrero says:

    I’m really tired of this “Biden won’t change our world” narrative. So, Mr. Gelb, you’re saying that keeping Trump in power would be no worse? Is all that you care about is you and your over-sized and ugly, Las Vegas style opera house? You need to get out talk to some real New Yorkers.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Give Biden half a chance to succeed and a bit of time to do so, Peter Gelb. You and your Trumpista buddies are despicable.
    Norman quotes Gelb: “….the only way for the Met to survive is for its employees to accept a large pay cut.” While you yourself get a raise, right?
    Prove me wrong….

    • Daniel Greer says:


      Peter the Great is a white-privileged liberal!!

      For years he’s done what Democrats all customary do, handle both his personal and business affairs in a sloppy manner and scream out when things plunge into the toilet financially.

      You can’t be daft enough to believe that The MET has no money after decades of gifting in the form of domestic and foreign stocks, bonds, estate bequeathments, numerous corporate donations, personal donations and the like…

      Nobody feels “sorry” for The MET. How can they??

      Gelb hauled in lots of $$$ with April’s Emergency Fundraiser Gala as an example. As an “expert” Greg, how much and where did those funds go as the house sits DARK?

      Expecting people to pay exorbitant NYC rent, taxes, expenses and take drastic pay cuts while rent isn’t going down is stupid and highly disrespectful to everyone that makes the opera house run.

      As for the Democrats recent little presidential elect “victory”, so what?!?!?! Biden was Obama’s VP for 8 years! What did either of them ever do for say The MET, Lincoln Center, opera?? CRICKETS…ZILCH!! That’s what! When you get educated on the Obama administration, is as superficial and vapid as Gelb’s stomping as if he’s Mussolini.

      Now that Democrats have realized they REQUIRE white men to be in power (De Blasio, Cuomo, Schumer, Biden and Pelosi holding her woman card high) it puts everyone back to the Obama years minus half of his ethnic calling card plus Kamala’s hyphenated black girl status in the same socialist realm. You never hear about what they do for the arts or what they listen to beyond rap and pop stars, do you???

      It seems that it’s finally time for The MET to shudder permanently. Levine’s big payout after the board’s indulgence of Jimmy’s normal predilections over the decades should be a glaring sign of how things are really managed.

      The worst part is the most important people, THE SINGERS (it’s an opera house you know) haven’t been supported or even mentioned once!

      With core people abandoning this sinking ship like Bowman and others we’ll be reading about soon, it’s only a matter of time before they’ll have to close their doors. Gelb wants to cheapen up labor at an iconic house as both the chorus and orchestra are left to beg in the streets?!?!?!

      Sure. Biden-Harris will save them…from themselves!


      • Greg Bottini says:

        Reply to Daniel Greer:

        “It seems that it’s finally time for The MET to shudder permanently.” The correct word, Daniel, is “shutter”.

        LMFAO, indeed.

        Perhaps now, with a Democratic President and Secretary of Education, there will be an opportunity for you to get a decent education.

      • William Safford says:

        You do realize that it’s Republicans who oppose government funding of the arts, don’t you?

        Gelb is correct that things will not change under a Biden Presidency, but not because Biden himself is opposed to funding the arts. It’s because the Republicans in the Republican-led Senate are opposed to government funding of the arts.

      • b. guerrero says:

        . . . therefore, the spoiled child having the temper tantrum – calling everyone and everything “fake” in the process – should be permitted to stage a coup and remain in D.C. “Biden won’t save all our problems. Therefore, he’s just the same as everyone else”. What a tired narrative that is.

      • Ramesh Nair says:

        Hi Daniel. I was wondering if the English prose style is all-American, or Trump-style howlers, clunkers, and all-caps Tweet-style miscegenation? I did enjoy “It seems that it’s finally time for the MET to shudder permanently”. Shudder permanently like Tutankhamen’s or Ramesses II’s mummies?
        By the way, Obama did have Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma perform at one of his inaugurations ( very big crowd size, even if the classical musicians actually mimed a pre-recorded take ). Trump had, uh, uhhh, ‘the Piano Guys’ at his.

        • Trump voter (a legal one) says:

          Still LMFAO after you limply inveighed Trump-isms but finally mentioned Obama’s vapid acts of having classical musicians “perform” for him out of amusement while he “held court”. BFD!!

          Obama and Biden didn’t DO anything for classical artists beyond using them as props to appear well-rounded and truly supportive. If that were the case, the arts programs of America would have been MORE than financially nourished by them after EIGHT YEARS and places like the met would have ample lines of credit and grant access planned out by the administration long ago.

          Lastly, I’m still laughing at seeing both Obama and miscegenation in the same comment…very OREO of you!!! LOL!!!

      • Greg says:

        +1 to Daniel Greer

      • Lance Dickerson says:

        3 UP votes from the following:

        Greg Bottini
        William Safford
        Ramesh Nair

        NEITHER of these 3 Russian bots are able to dispute Daniel Greer’s cogent assessments.

        They all went flaccid…

        Also Norman, removing the freedom to vote has immediately revealed the low level of intellectual sophistication by certain commenters. The first 2 listed normally engage in antagonistic, primarily vituperative and loquacious drivel attacking multiple commenters (ie Sue) to embolden themselves. Sad really. While you’ve allowed it to permeate your blog Norman, we normally laugh their narrow mindedness off and downvote their inadequacies. Now they’re resorting to petty spell-check attacks while offering no substantive counterpoints. This clearly means that the person they are attacking has sound, reasoned points which are valid. Kindly reflect on this when allowing their multiple spam comments along with reconsidering the freedom to vote by readers who also have the freedom to choose other websites besides yours.

        • Greg Bottini says:

          “Russian bot”?
          I am a US citizen, a California-born Italian-American who was a professional musician for decades. I have a college education. I live in San Francisco, not Russia. Since I became eligible to vote, I have never once missed voting in an election. In fact, in my younger days, I worked at the polling station on voting day. I use my real name as a commenter on this blog.
          “Russian bot”? You can kiss my ass!
          You and Daniel Greer (among others) are pathetically trying to hold on to your racist, xenophobic Trumpist views while attacking me and two other EDUCATED commenters from the safety of your mother’s basement.
          Well, I’ve got news for you, bub.
          Your boy LOST the election. He is a LOSER. A sad, impeached, morally bankrupt, criminally liable LOSER.
          You can keep wallowing in Trumpist swill like the rest of your delusional MAGAt buddies if you want to, or you can take off your white pointy hood and face reality.
          How’s THAT for flaccid, “Lance”?

        • William Safford says:

          Why do you feel so threatened by facts and informed opinions? Perhaps because they shake your world view?

          I hope so. It could be the start of self-improvement on your part.

  • Michael B lim says:

    More astonishing still — if possible in light of Gelb’s performance both pre and during Covid — is that the press, notably the NYTimes, the labor community, and cultural figures have made no attempt to take Gelb on. Other big cultural operations have figured out a way — but not the MET.

  • J Barcelo says:

    I just knew that eventually Trump would come into this for no reason whatsoever. The Donald loves NY, or used to before they turned on him. He did a lot of great things in the city to help revitalize it. He knows movers and shakers, he wanted NYC to be a world class place in everything – hotels, restaurants, museums, the arts (yes, opera), transportation, housing…he built first-class facilities. Ok, so opera isn’t his thing. What has Biden ever accomplished? Has he ever been a supporter of the arts? Has he ever shown any interest in New York? No. He’s a lifetime career politician. He won’t lift a finger to save the Met. Democrats love to talk about support of the arts, but when it comes down to it they won’t. The wealthy billionaires could stop the Met problem in a day by writing checks that they wouldn’t miss. But they will never do it. That’s because liberals have so poisoned the cultural environment that the Met and Philharmonic are seen as symbols of white privilege. Gates, De Blasio, Bloomberg, Speyer, Zuckerberg and friends don’t give one damn about Wagner, Verdi or Gelb.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      You are not from New York City if you believe DT has done great things for the city. He has always been a piriah to New Yorkers since day one. Since you reference Jerry Speyer, you again are dead wrong. Between him (MoMA) and his wife (Lincoln Center) they have collectively done more for the arts in the city than most, without the Trump fanfare. Please don’t spread misinformation.

      • NY Real Estateer and Opera Lover says:

        Forsaking Trump, I see you are a great admirer of the late Leona Helmsley then as a “New Yorker”.

        She was quite the accomplished minority woman (just like Hillary Clinton) between the way she handled her employees, the horrid cackling and her aphorisms like “We don’t pay taxes; only the little people pay taxes” akin to labels like “Super-Predators”. How lovely.

        You people would have supported her with zeal had she run for POTUS based on her wealth and sex overlooking her incarceration I’m sure!

        Your baseless hatred of Trump began ONLY when he declared his candidacy. His countless personal charitable donations and events he hosted alone were enough to bring him admiration. Beyond that, his respect for others was well documented at events where he was pictured with both Bill and Hillary Clinton, Rosa Parks and others. They readily approached him over the years, didn’t they??

        So Tiredofitall, save your faux-outrage and stop spreading misinformation yourself.

    • William Safford says:

      I agree with one sentence in your diatribe: “The wealthy billionaires could stop the Met problem in a day by writing checks that they wouldn’t miss.”

      You may be correct in one other sentence: “Gates, De Blasio, Bloomberg, Speyer, Zuckerberg and friends don’t give one damn about Wagner, Verdi or Gelb.” I suspect you’re incorrect about one or two of them. Someone else can look all that up.

      The rest of what you wrote is drivel and propaganda.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        The trouble with “Someone else can look it up” is that people seldom do. Hence the proliferation of talking-out-of-your-butt comments. Misinformation is misinformation.

        • William Safford says:

          True, but there are only so many hours in the day and I am not the only commenter.

          Unlike the trolls, the right-wing fanatics, and the pandemic deniers on this board, I make my comments based on fact and informed opinion.

          There is a huge amount of dreck posted in the comments on this board. The signal-to-noise ratio is unfavorable.

          When there is a fact or an informed opinion, even from an otherwise-unreliable source, I will acknowledge it.

  • Curvy Honk Glove says:

    What do you mean a Biden administration can’t solve all our problems? We were assured that voting for Biden/Harris would fix everything. Personally, I can’t wait to see the carbon-neutral, green-new-deal-compliant Met.

  • Amos says:

    If he actually says Joe Biden will not change our world, I can’t read the French original, then my response would be that he should stick to mismanaging the MET. Competence in Washington DC from the executive branch will go a long way towards Mr. Gelb having one less excuse for the chaos his organization finds itself in.

  • Peter says:

    The Met under Peter Gelb has become from one of the best opera houses in the world to a sad venue with 30-50% (even 70% – Damnation de Faust this year!) empty seats!
    I remember how it was years ago, when I was booking at the Met months in advance and flying from London to New York a few times a year – what great performances, real sold-out events!
    His mismanagement during his time at the helm of this house – horrible and very expensive productions some of which did not even get one (!) revival, the only same 3-4 more important singers kept in New York for 3-4 months every season to perform way too many performances, so people got very tired and bored of only listening to the overrated Netrebko for example, the too many cinema broadcasts which kept away audiences to attend live performances – and today, in unprecedented times, NO support for its own musicians, even in the very poor “Stars” series, what an insult to his own company!!!
    As for the “multi jobs” Yannick Nezet-Seguin – he seems the biggest loser, undeservingly kissed in the ass by so many singers today, which I cannot understand… He is most insulting to its own orchestra and keeps safe in Canada, doing literally nothing for the Met orchestra!!! How is this even possible?
    Imagine Jimmy Levine (no excuse for his personal problems here) – he would have done anything and everything for his musicians!
    R.I.P. Met!

  • pit dweller says:

    Congrats Peter, you will oversee the complete destruction of the MET. And where the fuck is Yannick? History will judge you both. Despicable. Fuck you both.

  • DG says:

    Cleaning up the mess at the Met is the least of Biden’s concerns right now, not even a blip on the radar. I’m sure the musicians having to leave NYC grimace when they think of the millions paid to settle things with Levine.

  • Nijinsky says:

    This really starting to look like American politics, and the whole lack of bipartisan effort.

    Peter Gelb explained it clearly in his Screaming Divas interview, that the met didn’t get the extra government bailout other organizations got, because they have more than 500 employees, which as he states is unfair, but one can’t do anything about it. And the loss of interest in opera and other symptoms one can’t completely blame on him either. And it’s not like he wouldn’t give everyone a paycheck if the money was there. Whether there are creative solutions that he’s not capable of seeing is another thing, or whether he is too stolid in his own approach; but when I see the amount of vitriol against him that’s going on here, I don’t see creative solutions or an ability to step outside one’s set idea either.

    To find a solution for this truly unexpected new impasse really needs something outside of the box, outside of set patterns, and making yourself vulnerable having new ideas; everyone blaming someone else and getting volatile spouting vitriol that they know how things should go will never solve it.