The Met’s unpaid musicians take to the streets and TV

The Met’s unpaid musicians take to the streets and TV


norman lebrecht

November 11, 2020

Members of the Metropolitan Opera’s orchestra have been telling NBC-TV how they are coping through Covid without pay. They have not received a cent from the company since March.

The Met says it’s still paying their health care and says it has ‘offered finanacial assistance’ from now until next summer ‘as part of long-term conctract proposals’.

What that means is: accept pay cuts or we’ll starve you out.

That’s how much Peter Gelb respects his musicians.

Watch the segment here.




  • Nurhan Arman says:

    Such irresponsible behaviour from the management of the Metropolitan Opera!

    • Orange man bad says:

      Why panic when we’re so busy celebrating?

      Biden and Harris will fix ALL of this soon enough.

      They got this y’all!!!

      • Fiona says:

        We’re all getting universal income and free healthcare with Biden-Harris now so it’s gonna be ok

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        They’re going to fix everything, I understand. Looking forward to a prosperous USA in the next 4 years, with huge job growth and companies back in the USA making stuff. Oh, wait…

        • Couperin says:

          Even if they DON’T fix anything it will be an improvement. Let’s see how many more of Trump’s staff catch the ‘rona before January 20th. I believe we have *at least* 5 total now from the big White House Election Day Party.

      • HugoPreuss says:

        Aah, no need to Biden/Harris to fix *any*thing, since everything is just hunky-dory thanks to you idol. And what is there to fix? Covid-19 has gone away by Easter 2020, like a miracle. Remember? So, stay calm and celebrate by drinking Cheeto Mussolini’s cool aid. Or give yourself a nice bleach infusion. It will be like another miracle.

        • Checkmate says:

          I’m proud of you HugoPreuss! You and your party have seen the light electing the same “type” of people in office after all your diversity talk using blacks as props.

          What do I mean?

          Bill De Blasio,
          Andrew Cuomo,
          Chuck Schumer,
          and now Joe Biden!!!

          …all wealthy, WHITE MEN!

          Don’t forget Peter Gelb either.

          Amazing you can’t grasp that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

        • Walter Scott says:

          Cuomo is “Making New Yorkers POOR Again” as he shuts things down yet again as we speak.

    • Joe and Kamala WON!!!!! says:

      Gelb is doing a great job!
      There’s nothing to question either him or the esteemed met board about.

      All everyone has to do is wait for all of the lockdowns to be lifted. Just come back later when it’s safe and obey your government.

  • mary says:

    Nothing stops Met patrons and board members from creating their own fund to pay the musicians. The fact that they haven’t means that they don’t disagree with Gelb’s approach.

    • Dan Schultz says:

      So where at least did Gelb’s April Emergency Gala money get channeled to and how much did they raise again??

      Ah! Don’t tell me.

      Nobody knows and IT DOESN’T MATTER! Right!!!!

    • Paul LaVonne says:

      What do they need money for exactly?

    • Christopher Meier says:

      The Met’s megalomaniacal ego is what’s stopping them Mary.

      The Met has proven themselves to be no better than any “greedy, fascist corporate overlord” ANTIFA has railed against since the ‘08 crisis.

      Sadly for themselves the singers, players and staff won’t ever acknowledge this FACT as the arts are viewed as a liberal cornerstone by the Left. They can’t manage to question “their own kind” but they will morally make time to criticize the businesses that SUPPORT their profession which is now in the toilet. Well, the Met is treating them the SAME WAY!

      You’d think their own poverty would shake them into reality as they find themselves thrown away by the Met. But being forced financially to abandon NYC or go homeless is becoming their “new normal” as it is for a whole lot of people the media has chosen to ignore.

      It’s too bad no one (the board, a big who’s who list of corporate sponsors, wealthy private donors) will help the talent who created status for the Met but it’s their own fault for believing the Met was so lofty and special.

      They clearly are not and have revealed themselves as the embodiment of fascism.

  • Hugh Van Dusen says:

    There should be a recognized fund to which we can all contribute. The Met management does seem cold-hearted.

  • William says:

    Shame on Gelb!!

  • Stop the Spread! says:

    These people are no better than anyone else especially in a “hot zone” designated by De Blasio and Cuomo!

    NOBODY IS GETTING PAID so they have absolutely no business guilting the Met, their board or Gelb. They have NO RESPONSIBILITY to any of the performers or staff.

    These people need to do what everyone else is being socialized to do:
    Wear a mask!!!!!
    Social distance!!!
    Stop going out!
    Go on NYS Unemployment
    Go on NYS welfare
    Go to food pantries
    Eat less
    Move somewhere more affordable or live on the street joining everyone else.

    • Morgan says:

      Nice formula but your math is quite bad.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Indeed. There IS a fate worse than death and some people are only just realizing what I’ve known for years.

      After this is over there WILL be a ‘new world order’ in the economy. Take it to the bank.

  • Alviano says:

    Gelb should give up his entire salary too out of solidarity.

    • Lynn says:

      Actually, Mr. Gelb did!

      Here is a quote from the New York Times
      By Zachary Woolfe
      Published May 5, 2020
      Updated June 26, 2020

      “When the Met announced in March that it would cancel the remaining eight weeks of its season, Mr. Gelb said that he would forgo his salary until operations returned to normal, and that senior management and some staff would see pay cuts.”

    • Ari Bocian says:

      He already has.

  • snowflake says:


  • EU person says:

    Where is AGMA? Why don’t they help
    Met musicians? Oh, I forgot, AGMA is too busy by moving to their new luxury office at Manhattan.

    • Bennett Weingarten says:

      Ask Norman!

      We’ve ALL been waiting to hear about what actions AGMA has taken for MONTHS!!!

      None of the commenters is educated on this topic thus far either. If so, speak out on specifically lay out what AGMA has already done!

      Mr. Lebrecht,
      What have you been able to find out about the union’s pro-active measures to represent its members???

    • JoshW says:

      What does AGMA have to do with the musicians? I think you mean the Musicians’ Union which is one of the shadiest unions in the country – and that’s saying a lot. (Of course, it’s almost one of the ONLY unions left in the country, so there’s that.)

      • NYMike says:

        AGMA represents the chorus, dancers and backstage personnel. And the source for your statement: ” I think you mean the Musicians’ Union which is one of the shadiest unions in the country – and that’s saying a lot”????

  • Tiredofitall says:

    This isn’t news. We’ve seen the actions of Peter and the Met board for over a dozen years. Did anyone expect anything different?

    When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
    Maya Angelou

    • BruceB says:

      Honestly I had to decide whether to upvote this for accuracy, or downvote it because it’s so depressing. I went with the former.

  • Met fan says:

    It is a scandal that the Peter Gelbs of this performing arts world take millions while nothing is left for the people who actually make the music. Has that man given back one personal dime yet?

    • Ari Bocian says:

      He waived his entire salary back in March.

    • Lynn says:

      Actually, Mr. Gelb did!

      Here is a quote from the New York Times
      By Zachary Woolfe
      Published May 5, 2020
      Updated June 26, 2020

      “When the Met announced in March that it would cancel the remaining eight weeks of its season, Mr. Gelb said that he would forgo his salary until operations returned to normal, and that senior management and some staff would see pay cuts.”

  • NotToneDeaf says:

    So if the musicians get paid, shouldn’t the chorus? And if they get paid, how about the stagehands? And the costume and wig people? The ushers and box office staff? The set builders? Follow spot operators? Make-up artists?Stage managers? Maintenance workers and custodians?Rehearsal pianists and staff conductors? This is to say nothing of the cast members from stars to comprimarios. Do you see how simple-minded your arguments against the Met are? Seriously, all of you “Gelb is more evil than Trump” people, what suggestions do you have for solving this? It’s easy to sit in your recliner and throw stones. (And don’t tell me Gelb should give up his salary. That wouldn’t even cover one payroll for all of these employees.)

    • Met ASSets.. says:

      You forgot about their domestic and overseas stock holdings, tangible assets, liquid assets and Emergency Gala money, trust money, grants, etc.

      Or are you “uneducated” in financial matters such as this like most commenters?

      • Tiredofitall says:

        Not a Gelb apologist here, but you are obviously ignorant of the abysmal
        state of Met’s finances during the Gelb regime. What the pubic knows is only the tip of the iceberg. I can guarantee you there are no hidden assets. The true assets are the artists.

      • NotToneDeaf says:

        I think you’re using a lot of words of which you don’t know the meanings. “Tangible assets” and “liquid assets” – I guess you mean the folks at the Met should start selling off. . . . what? The costumes? The music library? The pianos? The furniture in the dressing rooms? This is nonsense. “Trust money” – what even is this? “Domestic and overseas(?) stock holdings” – So you’re suggesting they spend down their endowment thereby guaranteeing bankruptcy sooner rather than later?

    • johns33 says:

      Exactly. plus the met is paying healthcare costs, which are considerable.

  • M McAlpine says:

    My son is a musician and simply doesn’t get paid when he doesn’t work. A tough business to be in when things are like they are.

    • Former UWS says:

      Glad he has you to fully financially support him.

      Lots of folks are ending up on the streets as every month passes with all the restrictions. I know landlords are having hard times especially in NYC. They can’t make mortgage, tax or utilities with all the people moving out or skipping due to no income.

      The only thing keeping people in their homes is the moratorium on evictions both by Trump and Cuomo through December.

      Lots of empty buildings will suddenly be going into foreclosure at the first of the year with no way for people to catch up on rent.

  • Loop says:

    Let’s say at some point in the likely very distant future…

    – COVID-19 has become rare
    – there’s a very high vaccination rate
    – mass indoor gatherings in NYC are legal and the infection rate has remained low

    If there’s still no agreement between Met and the musicians, what will happen? For how long might the Met remain dark?

  • Nijinsky says:

    Who knows what to make out of this maze of…..

    To begin with Peter Gelb in his recent interview with the screaming divas mentions that if he was paying everyone, than they would be out of business. This could be true, but where are the statistics about this, and why isn’t that brought out, and are there really no sponsors that would want to help the musicians somehow? And who is in charge of an organization he admits is more ready to go bankrupt than the airlines he mentions lost 30,000 jobs already?

    And then Peter Gelb and Sondra Radvanosky go on a tangent about how to further dumb down the audience, or appease that they want to be. Peter Gelb first pokes fun of those who have taken the trouble to stop bits of baroque operas that are found from ending up never being discovered , and in the rubbish bin somewhere, like Bach’s B minor mass almost ended up (he tries to make out scraps are discovered in someone’s closet as if it’s a joke). Then Sondra aggressively chimes in that all Rossini or Donizetti operas should be shortened.

    I don’t think that there’s enough time given for people to breath in how the music that they’ve been given and has survived time integrates melodically; to shorten that into something akin to the 2 to 5 minute hits that make it, and never escape out of such a “diversion,” that remaining almost about what “romantic” operas ended up being about (I love her, I hate her, I can’t live without her, I hate her again….); neither would the hits be there without the music which allowed melody and simple musical movement time to turn into the matrix of available skill that allowed for the hits to emerge….

    Rossini and Donizetti then are before that craze, and they don’t strain the voice, and they’re not so much about celebrity glow, which I don’t think even the romantic operas like Puccini are as much about as they end up being put forth….

    In a quick fix society where classical music might offer a place of repose and perspective, is shortening stuff to make it more “palatable” really going to work when the whole new movement with celebrity soloists advertised exactly with such a shortening of attention span has shown where it leads, and how classical music is falling out. In the meantime the celebrities have really widened the gap immensely between the chosen few and meager orchestra musicians. The soloists joining the 1 percent, and the orchestra musicians…

    And it’s not even whether they shorten it, of course there’s stuff that would in places be dismissed, although it’s nice to hear somehow everything, if only in a recording with the added extras at the end; but so aggressively making out that that’s how it should be, with no considerate show of respect for the music itself, by two people who both make a lucrative living from it neither being in a state to produce such basic art as a written manuscript they exploit, that it even exists to be shortened by them, as they aggressively go on with how they think things should be, while in the meantime such trends have shown where they lead to…..

    • Nijinsky says:

      I’m sorry, but when Peter Gelb is chuckling about how the Met – and who is in charge of the Met? – is more in shape to go bankrupt that other companies that have, this is maybe more than a bit tone deaf. At first I thought that beyond the vitriol his human side came out more, and that he was really level headed and able to balance everything. But to hear him make disparaging remarks about all baroque operas without any respect for the fact that they exist, but more chuckling again, or how the whole period was part of the blossoming of the art form after its emergence in Italy; and then to have Sondra chime in about AGAIN part of the art form, but from the early romantic period, that helped it to blossom, showing more interest in “knowing” what is wrong with it than respect that it exists….

      What does this say about two people who made more money than meager orchestra musicians, using the medium supported by composers whose music they are so ready to aggressively exploit?

      And what does this say about the celebrity culture that is bringing down classical music, trying to replace it with a dumbed down version that never could have allowed how it enhances the human condition to exist in the first place, and have allowed it to emerge?

      And sorry but this is quite typical to “know” how things should be when change is needed, but remain free from the actual results to blame it on something else than you might be contributing to. And that’s just money, those without it might be doing more for music and themselves, and consequently don’t have such a loss in contrast to those with the “gain.”

  • MacroV says:

    Stop blaming Gelb, for heaven’s sake. He has a board. But the problem the MET faces is that if they keep paying the musicians, they also have to pay everyone else. In a symphony orchestra the musicians are the bulk of the organization; at the MET they’re a small part. And even paying them partial salaries for doing an occasional socially distanced streamed concert probably isn’t that feasible.

  • Paul B. says:

    Peter Gelb, the MET management team and the Board have failed to negotiate in good faith. Peer orchestras, and even most smaller budget orchestras, have all maintained some type of income for their members. Bear in mind, these artists (regular orchestra members, associate musicians, librarians and music staff) have all won competitive auditions to be in these chairs and they are at the height of their profession. This is inexcusable if you love opera. Please speak up.