Peter Gelb and the Met’s Corona year

Peter Gelb and the Met’s Corona year


norman lebrecht

December 30, 2020

A new drawing by the New York artist Emmanuelle Ayrton brilliantly captures the unitended confluence between Coronavirus, which shut down the Metropolitan Opera, and its general manager Peter Gelb, who is using the shutdown to starve his musicians into submission.

Emmanuelle is quick to pick up on the musical vibe in New York.

In other submissions, we have this message from the Met Opera musicians:

As 2020 comes to a close, we want to wish you a happy holiday season and a wonderful year ahead.

Thanks to your support we will be disbursing close to $325,000 to help our members who have been out of work since April.

As we begin the new year, we will continue to fundraise. The 2020-21 season was cancelled, so we are heading into our 10th month without a paycheck.

Unpaid since April 2020, over a third of our members have been forced to leave the New York City area. Nonetheless, we remain committed to engaging with our audiences, giving back to our community, and supporting each other.


Image (c) Emmanuelle Ayrton


  • U.S. Orchestra Musician says:

    Perhaps this drawing will get through to the “powers that be,” for whom words have failed.

    We support you, the musicians of the Met Opera.

    • BruceB says:

      The Powers That Be are aware of the situation, and are happy with it.

    • #supportoperasingers says:

      To be clear, Peter Gelb is a white supremacist who cares nothing for the singers.

      In spite of the Met’s vast financial tools at their disposal along with just the recent April Emergency Gala money, there’s no excuse for not paying those under contract for the current season or the hurting employees. Justifications and more inane questions from commenters are not welcome and tend to be narrow minded. Sadly, the low education of commenters Norman usually sees sparring for upvotes has been quite glaring. None of you seems to know what AGMA is or how any of the opera singers are doing. You clearly don’t care. All of the attention goes to the players month after month as if it’s only an orchestral hall. It’s not.

      The singers have NO VOICE anymore along with scores of talented individuals who have contributed to the prestige of the opera house who deserve to be paid. Many are broke both financially and spiritually with no one to turn to. It’s apparent that singers are not valued or appreciated in the USA any longer. Gelb and the board have all but proven this. I’m glad to see people leaving NYC and breaking away to continue their careers elsewhere or change course if they can hang on to their will to live.

      Fortunately the IRS is examining the Met and Lincoln Center’s dealings more closely as Peter the Great cries poor while doing absolutely nothing but play the victim.

  • mary says:

    You can lay it all at the feet of Peter Gelb, but then how to explain why the Board is silent, why every single major donor is silent, why the overwhelming majority of subscribers is silent, why the general public is generally silent, finally, I bet even the readership of this site has not contributed more than $100 collectively to the Met musicians.

    The question is why, if Peter Gelb is so wrong?

    • Roy says:

      Mary: People such as Gelb who are in positions of cultural leadership are supposed to be the ones making the strongest case for the importance of the arts and the people that create them. The Met’s board and donor base does not consist primarily of working musicians and may not always fully understand what life as a professional musician is like. As a consequence, they may not understand why the decisions that Gelb and the Met’s administration are so destructive from a musician’s perspective. The donors are also inherently inclined to be of the mindset to trust the decisions that the institutions are making or they wouldn’t be donors in the first place. Thus, this one is on Gelb for not setting an example by using his position to lead.

    • Daniel says:

      So what you’re trying to say is that Peter Gelb is right in treating the MET musicians so poorly because no one else is speaking out on his abuse? Really?
      The musicians are the backbone, substance, and value of that organization.

    • Patricia says:

      The powers-that-be at the MET were silent when they knew about the immoral and illegal behavior of Levine. Every opera guild in the country knew about it and the Board did nothing – save to keep silent about it and pay off some of the victims’ families. To me that is much worse than this.

    • Greg says:

      To Mary:
      Are you seriously trying to say that Peter Gelb is right in treating the MET musicians this poorly and the proof is in the fact that no one else is speaking out about it? Really?
      How horrible can you be.

    • BruceB says:

      Because (I am willing to bet 1000 imaginary dollars) Gelb has not been asking them for money for the musicians.

      This is a familiar tactic. Back in 2012 with the Minnesota Orchestra lockout, e-mails were uncovered that showed a plan for the management to concentrate fundraising on a special fund for renovation of the hall and not mention the musicians, so that when negotiations came around they could say there was no money for the musicians and there would have to be cuts. And so it came to pass.

      My orchestra went on strike the same year, with the same strategy. As soon as we went public with our complaints about the cuts following 4 years of frozen pay (i.e. in 2012 we were still getting paid like it was 2008 despite the contract they had agreed to), I talked to a couple of supporters who said “we were at the fundraising luncheon for the theater just a week or two before the strike,” i.e. negotiations had broken down and some form of labor dispute was imminent, “and they never even mentioned this!”

      You can bet that the donors & board members who love the art form would be happy to donate for the purpose of supporting the artists, if anyone ever asked them to. As it is, they are busy with their own lives and probably assume that some fair portion of their contribution goes to that.

  • Hugh Van Dusen says:

    where is a website where I can contribute to Met musicians?

    I would very much like to do so-as other would also, I am sure

      • Andrew Hatchell says:

        Thanks for the link! I hadn’t wanted to contribute to the Met Opera Guild this year, given the way they’ve treated their musicians, so my donation for this year shall go here!

        • Susan Spector says:

          Andrew, I’m afraid you’re confusing the Metropolitan Opera Guild with the Metropolitan Opera ASSOCIATION.

          Although the Guild’s mission is to support the Association, they are in fact two separate entities. Please don’t impugn the Guild: despite the pandemic, they are still going forward with many of their altruistic endeavors, including bringing opera to New York City school children (virtually.)

          But, please, by all means: do go ahead and make a donation to MET Orchestra Musicians! Your concern and others’ are very much appreciated.

          I do feel compelled to also mention that, aside from a very few Solo Artists and a skeletal stage crew (half a dozen or so), not one member of the MET Chorus nor the MET’s incredible Stagehands—currently locked out by management—has received a single paycheck since March either.

          Susan Spector
          MET Orchestra Musician

      • Musician says:

        I’m a little confused as to why people would downvote Mr. Dusen or Mr. Lebrecht’s response to him. In any case, I’m glad we’re seeing this on SD. The Met musicians deserve all the help they can get, and it was easy to donate through the link.

    • Barbara Currie says:

      As a MET Musician working hard on helping the orchestra, I want to thank you for your donation.

    • Zelda Macnamara says:

      And please don’t forget the Chorus.

  • New Yorker says:


  • JussiB says:

    the coronavirus cartoon looks like a Met chandelier. LOL!

  • Tony T says:

    Emmanuelle does not live in NYC. She’s Parisian and resides in Burgundy. I’m sure many MET musicians would adopt her if they could.

    • Hahaha! Thank you Tony T. You are right. But I also consider NYC as my second home, for I studied, lived and worked there in my twenties and absolutely loved it. Seeing how my MET musicians friends are treated has unleashed my wicked pencil and there will be more cartoons like this one if the situation goes on…

  • George says:

    Just out of curiosity: is AGMA helping their members?

  • Isidore Begmyn says:

    Gelb is spot on, and while Yannick’s legs are perfect, the shape and color is off. Otherwise, bravo!

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    It’s all a matter of money and perspective. The problem is that once things are back up and running, The Met will have little trouble filling vacancies in the orchestra. Will the orchestra be up to its usual high polished standards? . . . probably not. Will the do drop-off be significant enough that audience members will be bothered the drop-off . . . not likely. People come to the opera mainly for the singers, staging and costumes. All opera companies have trouble enough putting together solid casts these days.

  • Carolyn says:

    Such a shame the Met is hiring European musicians for its New Year Gala in Germany

  • Grumpy Dude says:

    Where is Yannick in all of this?! Is he the Music Director of this opera house? Does he care at all???