Met musicians blaze solidarity with stagehands

Met musicians blaze solidarity with stagehands


norman lebrecht

December 10, 2020

Musicians of the Metropolitan Opera have been expressing workers’ solidarity with the stagehands who have been locked out by Peter Gelb. We reproduce their statement below.

Given that the musicians are the next to face lockout, the sympathy is understandable. But is it the best strategy to adopt in delaing with Gelb? Or with the general perception of high wage levels at the Met?

And shouldn’t they be observing safe distance?

Your thoughts, please.


The musicians of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, represented by AFM Local 802, stand in solidarity with our IATSE Local 1 stagehand colleagues who have been locked out of The Metropolitan Opera, a particularly callous action taken by Met management in this unprecedented pandemic. While our union contracts are separate, we are faced with this in common: Met management is exploiting this temporary situation to permanently gut contracts of the very workers who create the performances on their global stage, while disingenuously advertising lasting cuts as the only way forward.
The orchestra understands that short-term concessions are necessary during a pandemic — We proposed temporary concessions to the Met last month and are eager to collaborate. We believe it is possible, even during pandemic times, if all parties agree to work together. However, Met leadership has failed to foster an atmosphere of collaboration, issuing destructive ultimatums which only serve to exacerbate the difficulties we are all facing.
Despite these difficulties, we will continue to support and stand by our colleagues, with whom we make the magic happen night after night, and with whom we make the Metropolitan Opera name ring resonantly throughout the world.


  • BP says:

    Posing for a picture for a few seconds, outdoors and with a mask on, is not unsafe. Come on now.

  • A.L. says:

    “It’s the auditorium, stupid.” The unsustainably large auditorium, that is. And not just that but, to beat a dead horse, the unprecedented disappearance of genuine vocal stars. All this long preceding the pandemic.

    • V. Lind says:

      I agree with your first statement. I think your assessment of the singers is a little harsh.

    • A.L. says:

      And, as if it needing saying again and to make matters worse, hovering over are the dark clouds of increasingly diminished interest in the art form, an art form many consider irrelevant and anachronistic, and of increasingly aging audiences. Sad but true. Oh, and let’s not get started on the pitiful state of our educational system.

    • BruceB says:

      I would say the problem, rather than the disappearance of genuine vocal stars, is more the shift of emphasis toward looks. There may well be genuinely great singers out there — I see no reason why talent and good teaching should have vanished from the earth — but if they’re not thin & beautiful, then nobody cares how good they are.

      There was a production at the Met a couple years ago that experienced a surge in ticket sales once the reviews started coming in that said “who cares about the sets, the SINGING is incredible.” Can’t remember what opera it was or who the singers were, but I remember it prompted an article in the NYT expressing pleasant surprise that good singing could still drive ticket sales.

  • Skippy says:

    Some of those stagehands make more than the musicians. A lot more.

    I would rethink that “solidarity.”

    • Herr Doktor says:

      More than that, it’s suicidal for the musicians if they want there to BE a Met in the future. When you have stagehands who are making IN EXCESS of $300,000 a year (and that’s an old number, I’ll bet currently you have some that have exceeded $400,000) and the overall pay scale is filled with similarly bloated salaries, guess what folks, that’s not sustainable. I do not begrudge artists getting paid. However, those behind the scenes are not artists, they are technicians, and while they deserve to be paid fairly, no one is going to convince ANYONE that making salaries in that range is remotely fair–to anyone except the persons receiving them. In an era where revenues have been falling pre-pandemic, either the Met management finds a way to cut their costs, finds ways to raise even more money, or goes bust. Defending the union salaries that are being made for those behind and above the stage is pretty damn near indefensible these days.

      • Araragi says:

        I’ve never understood the mentality that claims to know how much someone else’s labor is worth to yet another someone else. Labor is worth what someone is willing to pay and what someone else is willing to accept. The fact that stagehands make more than many of the artists is no less odd than the GM or the in-house attorneys making more than the artists. Supply and demand determines worth, not any one person.

    • BruceB says:

      Why? Should they be against anyone who makes more than they do?

    • Met Musician says:

      I am one of those musicians you speak of. And our stagehand colleagues work HARD and for equivalent hours to doctors or nurses. It is the Met that demands these hours of them, thereby driving their salaries up. I stand by them and will continue to.

  • David G says:

    In theory, the union members are correct — they have studied and worked for years to reach the top. In reality, however, if there’s no revenue, there’s no payment. The airlines, who HAVE been subsidized, are still laying off pilots who also have made their profession a lifelong study. Passenger traffic is down 70-90%. So it’s time to face reality, no matter how much it stinks.

    • JoshW says:

      Exactly – it’s what the market dictates. I may be the best VCR repairman in the world and have talents that took me 20 years to perfect – but if no one is buying my skill I can’t very well demand a six-figure salary for it. Sorry, I know this will piss people off, but explain to me what’s incorrect with that reasoning.

      • William Safford says:

        The difference: I have attended many opera performances at the Met and elsewhere (and performed in a few, albeit not in the Met) in the decades that I have not used my VCR player.

  • John Kelly says:

    The fish rots from the head………

  • Dee cee says:

    The back stage crew is the best in the world and create magic every day and every night, they work 15 hour days , some of the crew work 6 days a week, back stage is 24/7 and management makes the schedule, time is money.

  • Dee cee says:

    P.S.- There is a day Crew ,a show crew and a crew at night that strikes the evening performance and sets up the next day’s rehearsal, for the evening performance there is a combination of day and the nite crew, the nite crew works till 8am, work being done 24/7

  • NYMike says:

    During the last successful MET union contract negotiations, the solidarity between Local IATSE, Loal 802 AFM and AGMA proved to be the difference maker.

  • NYMike says:

    That’s Local 1 IATSE

  • Kathleen King says:

    First, they appear to be masked. Second and most important, the MET is its people: stagehands, musicians, chorus, backstage and techs, seamstresses, et al. It is NOT GELB and his coterie of administration flunkies. I have withheld and will continue to do so the contribution I was going to make to the “emergency fund” until it is paid out in toto to the salaries and insurance of the MET people (not administration, nor to fund Gelb’s “new” productions and ideas!) Without the MET people there is no MET and they know it. They deserve and earn every penny. GELB IS A UNION BUSTER but there are no substitutes for the real MET talent.

    • pastore says:

      Think what you will of Mr. Gelb but I take great exception to the term ” administrative flunkies “. The folks who contract the artists, oversee the productions, sell the tickets and raise the money are also ” MET people “. There is no reason to doubt that they are as dedicated to the Met as the artists and production staff. Without their efforts the would be no Met.

      • John says:

        I’m sure they are dedicated to their jobs, but sadly, with their efforts, there will be no more Met to speak of. Time to find a new tenant for the great house.