The Metropolitan Opera has decided ‘to attack its own artists’

The Metropolitan Opera has decided ‘to attack its own artists’

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norman lebrecht

January 01, 2021

Peter Gelb’s decision to use European musicians for a New Year’s gala instead of his own unwaged orchestra has drawn fury from AFM local 802 leader Adam Krauthamer. Here is the cutting edge of his statement:

Met management is unethically outsourcing its musicians while, at the same time, attempting to use the pandemic as an opportunity to gut the regular Met musicians’ contract through destructive bargaining. All of these fundraising events can — and should — be done safely right here in New York with members of the Met orchestra. The deepest offense any artistic institution can make is the choice to attack its own artists. Let’s be clear: hiring non-Met musicians under the banner of the Metropolitan Opera and outsourcing the orchestra’s work is an attack on the Met as an artistic institution and an insult to the very artists who work there. The Met is still the only major American orchestra that has furloughed and not paid its musicians or given them any kind of substantial financial aid or lifeline during the pandemic. This is the kind of negligent leadership that leads to the self destruction of the Met’s artistic credibility, and — on a larger scale — to a Great Cultural Depression.

 

Comments

  • Bass One says:

    Gelb must go.

    • Darryl N. says:

      Agreed…for quite some time now.

      Seeing this utter BS come to pass, I’m more confident now than ever in my assessment. The Board, especially Ann Ziff and Mr. Gelb are certain that they are both bigger than NYC and America. They sure don’t need the singers or players anymore to put on a show! So, I say SELL THE MET, Lincoln Center and all holdings to the highest foreign bidder and let somebody else carry them instead of the US. Razing it and going to a smaller more reasonable and environmentally sensitive layout. Staring over would be a good idea considering the pandemic. Nobody gives a shit about people anymore now that loyalty and unity mean absolutely nothing. A Chinese, UAE, conglomerate would do a better job going forward now that everything has less value at this point. Auctioning off the tired old PAC would draw more interest than the performances the house can’t afford to box office. That’s for sure!!

      The golden age has long past. Tastes among the newly college educated don’t include either opera or ritualistic travel and lodging by out of towners, early, suppers, DRESSING UP or staying politely seated for roughly 2+ hours of anything not involving drugs or God forbid…WATING for anything like ladies and gentlemen. They don’t have manners or class anymore. The young are abandoning NYC for more AFFORDABLE and NICER surroundings with De Blasio and Cuomo handling the city and state like a couple of spoiled, arrogant, whiny infants with their defund the police and lax laws.

      We didn’t abandon the Met.
      The met abandoned US!

      • Larry D says:

        Yeah, it’s GELB’s fault those damn kids on my lawn don’t want to dress up while using drugs they bought from DeBlasio and Cuomo! Such a reasoned analysis…

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    That is a low blow to the musicians of the MET. Very sorry to hear this news. But it is perhaps indicative of the Global Economy similar to manufacturing. Due to technology, one can move “production” across borders and lower costs and overhead. This is truly a sad state of affairs and one that I would not have expected from the MET management.

    • Adrienne says:

      “indicative of the Global Economy similar to manufacturing”

      Possibly. I find the reaction on this site very interesting indeed. Tradesmen in the UK (and France), with mortgages and families, have been undercut by people from lower wage economies in E Europe, but the Remainers who visit this site, apparently the vast majority, don’t appear to be unduly concerned. Open borders and all that.

      We don’t have full details of the action taken by the Met, but Remainers can’t have it both ways. One rule for “our” musicians, and another for working class plumbers and carpenters, is not acceptable in my opinion.

      • SVM says:

        Adrienne’s analogy does not quite hold (and by the way, plumbers often make more money than musicians in the UK!). The real issue is not undercutting /per se/, but the fact that an orchestra is being presented under the ‘Metropolitan Opera’ brand, despite none of its players being members of the Met’s in-house orchestra.

        A better analogy would be if “Bob the Builder” advertised his services in London, wins a contract for a building project on the back of his reputation, charges his premium “Bob” prices for the project, but then engages 18-year-old Jaroslaw from Warsaw to do all the work for the UK minimum wage, exercises zero oversight/supervision, and refuses to remedy any problems.

        What Adrienne describes, however, is akin to “Bob the Builder” losing business because a rival, “Jaroslaw the Builder”, does not charge premium “Bob” prices. And a similar phenomenon occurs **all the time** in the music profession, only citizenship has very little to do with it. In my experience, many of the people undercutting professional musicians in the UK are actually British citizens. Rather than carp about them, my /modus operandi/ is to make sure that I am better than them, and to live in the hope that promoters, audiences, pupils, &c. will notice the difference in quality and pay commensurately (in general, they do notice the difference, usually after having already tried the cheaper options first).

        Of course, orchestras engage ‘deputies’ and ‘extras’ all the time, and it is not unusual for an opera/theatre/ballet company to engage an outsourced orchestra for foreign tours (in such cases, I suppose they justify the branding on the basis that they are still using in-house singers/actors/dancers), to or send only a few principal orchestral players and hire the rest of the orchestra from freelancers local to the area being toured.

        However, some organisations go too far, and dilute their brand excessively. It would be unthinkable for the Vienna Philharmonic to engage the Leipzig Gewandhaus to perform a New Year’s concert and brand it as a Vienna Philharmonic event, *unless* the other orchestra were given headline billing as an invited ‘guest’ ensemble, perhaps as part of a concert-series involving various ‘guests’. Similarly, I find it odd that the Met does not advertise the orchestra being engaged in Augsburg (looking at https://www.metopera.org/season/events/ ) — is it an existing orchestra (if so, it should be named), or an /ad hoc/ freelance gig? By omission, the Met is failing in its duty of candour to recognise the role of ‘guest’ artists, and *that* is what is unacceptable.

        • William Safford says:

          Good points, SVM.

          To take your points even further: the singers are not (AFAIK) employees of the Met. They themselves are, in essence, freelancers. (If I’m mistaken, please feel free to correct me.) Their names are certainly associated with the Met, but I don’t believe that they are Met employees.

          The orchestra members, however, *are* employees, yet did not participate in this project.

          So, this was a concert of freelance singers, with freelance supporting musicians (what unions commonly refer to as “scabs”), without the participation of members of the orchestra, in a country an ocean away from NYC, under the name “Metropolitan Opera.”

        • Adrienne says:

          “What Adrienne describes, however, is akin to “Bob the Builder” losing business because a rival, “Jaroslaw the Builder”, does not charge premium “Bob” prices.”

          No, “Bob the Builder” does not charge “premium” prices, he charges what he needs to cover his household expenses. On the other hand, “Jaroslaw the Builder” will in many cases live in basic, shared accommodation with few overheads, probably on a more-or-less temporary basis. I have it on good authority that this is widespread. And I won’t even go into the issue of tax compliance.

          I’ll accept that plumbers was a bad example. General building work and painting/decorating is more common as qualifications are not required.

          • SVM says:

            Does Adrienne seriously believe that builders charge only the minimum necessary to cover their “household expenses”? Does she seriously believe that an older, more experienced builder would never charge a premium (and then subcontract most of the physically onerous work to younger colleagues — nothing wrong with doing this, as long as he/she engages competent people, exercises adequate oversight, and takes ultimate responsibility for any issues with the work)?

            Adrienne is right to observe that some builders are willing to tolerate far more spartan living conditions, and are therefore willing to work for lower pay, especially when they are young and not very ‘established’ in a given location. The same could be said for many trades and professions, including music (London is full of young professional musicians living in “basic, shared accommodation with few overheads, probably on a more-or-less temporary basis”… many of them are British citizens from other parts of the UK).

            By the way, willingness to tolerate spartan living conditions is not the only factor that enables a tradesperson or professional to make a living despite charging very low prices.

            If Adrienne feels that such people are undermining the capacity of others to make a viable living to an unacceptable extent, then the best solution is to campaign for a higher minimum wage and to campaign for more robust enforcement of minimum-wage legislation. It would not solve everything (because freelancers are not bound by minimum-wage regulations to the same extent as employees), but it would be a start.

          • Marge O. says:

            many general CONtractors in the us empire charge an arm and leg and are well known for outrageous fees and hustling tactics.

      • William Safford says:

        The U.S. isn’t part of the EU, of course.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    “… still… major American Orchestra…”

    Let us wait and see. Sad.

  • Emil says:

    Outsourcing the musicians is unforgivable. Do you have any more information? Who played? Who conducted?

    If, indeed, a non-unionized orchestra was used to scab, that reflects very badly on the artists involved. The four singers should have refused to participate.

    • Duane says:

      Yes, one would think that the soloists would stand behind having the MET orchestra musician’s be the orchestra, accompanying them! These are incredibly difficult times, for many performing artists! This is just going to make more problems, for the MET management/ musician’s Union relationship, which, in turn, could affect already frayed tempers!

    • sam says:

      “The four singers should have refused to participate.”

      Alas, the pandemic has shown that it’s every man for himself. I think the narrative of pure meritocracy in classical music has fostered a sense of entitlement: I got the job because I AM better than someone who did not get the job so I DESERVE the job.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        The quartet of singers in involved in this gala–pre-pandemic–probably earned many times more than their lesser-known counterpart musicians. These sad times, in many cases, have brought out the worst in people, and these singers exemplify that fact it is indeed “it’s every man for himself”.

        An argument could be made that they are merely contract artists who are not officially a part of the company. However, they will have to live with their choices. It will probably not affect their professional future, but it will be a permanent stain on their souls.

        As for Peter’s decision to use a scab orchestra, he had already demonstrated that he is beyond redemption.

        My heart continues to go out to all those musicians, technicians, and other workers at the Met who have not had an income since March. You deserve better.

        • Musicman says:

          These four soloists (with the exception of Polenzani) are not big enough names to have the leverage to say no. Angel Blue debuted at the Met in 2017, so she hasn’t been there long enough to stand up to Gelb.

          Pretty Yende debuted at the Met in 2013 and last sang there as Marie in Fille du Regiment in the spring of 2019. While she sounded great in that performance, she was struggling vocally before that and was not scheduled in the 2019-2020. She is also not scheduled in 2021-2022, so she also has no leverage to stand up for the musicians.

          Camarena is the No.3 leggiero tenor behind Juan Diego Flores and Lawrence Brownlee and is also not an American, so I am not surprised that he did this.

          I am most disappointed in Polenzani. As a white, straight man, who is currently one of the Met’s biggest stars, he should have had the leverage and the balls to say no. Shame on him!

          And Shane on Gelb for taking advantage of female singers of color who don’t have leverage and pitting them against their fellow musicians in the orchestra!

          I am also guessing that several big names were asked first a d said no to Peter.

          • Lance T. says:

            “I am most disappointed in Polenzani. As a white, straight man, who is currently one of the Met’s biggest stars, he should have had the leverage and the balls to say no. Shame on him!”

            Your astonishing reliance on white people with no power in these situations is precisely why the broad “white privilege” myth narrative is patently false.

            Saying the 2 black singers are being used as slave labor by Gelb as mindless women is also inflammatory yet typical of your ilk. They both should have simply declined on principle. However they have no character which is their issue. Gelb didn’t quite round ‘em up and put them on the stage in an auction. They don’t have good vocal techniques either. We’re clearly not dealing with the calibers of Battle and Norman anymore.

            What do you expect of Gelb anyway? Give his job to some minority to appease the left??? The Met board has spoken along with Ann Ziff and their token gay YNS who has done…….what so far? He could have held a virtual NYE concert with him, each singer appearing separately as well as the players. It’s not as if he already did this with the entire Met chorus you know?!?!

            The met brand has officially been diluted! It’s now a moniker you can stick on anything if one pays for licensing which is what happened here. Gelb’s emergency gala money sure didn’t finance this. It all went to the NY artists right??? LMFAO!

    • Frustrated says:

      No one conducted, idiot. It was a pianist for half of it and a string quartet for the other half. No one is currently allowed to put on a broadcast concert like this in NYC or you would have seen the NY Phil do it. There was no choice but to do it in Europe and one cannot cherry-pick 4 members of the orchestra who wouldn’t be allowed to travel over there anyway.

      • Charlie Gemeinhardt says:

        May I suggest you check out the Met Orchestra Musicians website for the schedule of their Spotlight Series of streaming concerts that include Met Stars such as Eric Owens and orchestra musicians. Performances are held and recorded in NYC with all safety precautions addressed and performed superbly I might add. There is a $15 charge with all proceeds going directly to the Met Orchestra Musicians Pandemic Fund to support the musicians and their families during this crisis.

    • harpist says:

      It was a fundraiser FOR the Met so why would they refuse. One singer is from the US, the other 3 regularly appear at the Met… The “gala” was done in Germany so they used an European Ensemble (a quintet).
      So, I think this is overblown – but that said, Gelb is acting despicable towards his musician in the orchestra and choir.

      • SVM says:

        In that case, why did the Met not bother giving individual named credit to the pianist and to the members of the quintet at https://www.metopera.org/season/events/ ? I appreciate that listing every member of an orchestra may not be practical, but when it is an ensemble with only a half-a-dozen people, I cannot see any practical reason not to list each player… unless the instrumentalists asked to remain anonymous?!?

    • Comendatore says:

      Vienna Morphing Orchestra. Performed with Alagna and wife in the last Gelb performance. Shame on all.

  • PB says:

    What happens now with the Met is just the top of the iceberg of the poorest management in its history.
    The Met in the past 10 years has been the biggest loosing opera company, Gelb has destroyed its prestige and the quality of the performances, subsequently showing a dramatic loss in ticket sales (no sold out performance since many years, with an average of 50-60% full house should have ringed a bell years ago). Having the same 2-3 names for many months every season singing literally everything (e.g. Netrebko), hiring much less talented singers with an average/mediocre result just because of their marital status (e.g: Eyvazov/Kurzak), doing horrible and expensive new productions some of which would never actually get a revival or would only last for a few years/seasons…. and the list can continue….
    Shame on Gelb, shame on Yannick – who by the way did zero for the Met orchestra in the past 10 months, shame on the “stars” (some will never be stars but today every opera singer is considered to be a “star”) who accepted fees for these pre-recorded concerts while perfectly being aware that all Met musicians have no income at all!
    The Met Orchestra and Chorus and everybody who has been cruely and maliciously ignored during this pandemic should not even accept to play/perform anymore if Gelb stays! Shameful and disgraceful!

    • Kathleen King says:

      EXCEPT we the public need and love the MET which is pure and simple the people, all of them (except Gelb and his sycophants in Administration and on the Board). Without the Orchestra, its wonderful chorus, and all the backstage people, the MET is just another musical show. Without its people, the MET ceases to be “the MET.” (Gelb knows that, and hence is clearly out to destroy its whole being!)

    • NYMike says:

      Do not compare Yannick with Gelb. Yannick could do nothing with the Met Orch. since Gelb furloughed it. Yannick has continued to support and conduct his other two orchestras – Philly and Montreal – during this horrendous time.

    • harpist says:

      Not sure in which performances you were but the ones I wee in were NOT 50%-60% seated… They ere pretty full. And as much as i disagree with many things Gelb currently does, the Met got much better compared to Volpe’s leadership. By god, they had ancient settings and singers who were so bad they couldn’t get any higher notes…

      • Anne says:

        La Damnation de Faust in early 2020 (with Garanca!), when Covid was not an issue yet, had a 25-30% occupancy… imagine that!
        Yeah… now you have Netrebko and hubby ruining every opera at the Met – ludicrous!

  • Player says:

    This is terrible, but we need more information. Where is this happening? How can it be called a MET gala if they don’t use the MET orchestra? All the union can do is write an angry letter? How is this possible?

    Gelb has to be stopped. No one (players, stagehands, patrons) should support such an endeavor, in New York or anywhere. Substantive legal action has to be taken. Letters don’t cut it.

    Musicians of the MET: you are amazing artists. You deserve better.

    Shame on Gelb, the board and management.

  • Alma Regina says:

    short-sighted, completely irresponsible and illoyal actions of the management! Gelb is even a better funeral undertaker than covid

  • Rich says:

    And James Levine has the last laugh as he walked away with $3.5 million from his sexual harassment settlement. Pathetic.

    • Anon says:

      Please try to stay on topic. The people who have not been paid since March had nothing to do with that settlement.

    • Kathleen King says:

      Maestro Levine, whatever his personal failings may or may not be, NEVER worked against the MET as an institution. The MET is the great institution it became largely because of HIM. PETER GELB HAS HATED AND BEEN JEALOUS OF MAESTRO FOR YEARS. Gelb will do anything to control — that is, destroy — the MET which is its people! No, Maestro Levine is not “laughing” but weeps with the rest of us who love the MET and music.

    • Tremenda Vendetta says:

      The James Levine case is indicative of the Met’s hypocrisy. They fired Levine saying that his behavior went against the company’s sexual harassment policy. However, they overlook the company’s “conflict of interests” policy all the time. Look at Sirius producer Grace Row – outsourcing the audio engineering to a company run by her husband.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        Let’s be fair here. Charles Harbutt (I looked him up after reading your personal attack on Grace Row) joined Sony Classical in 1989, so he has a long association with Peter Gelb, who no doubt hired him at the Met.

        He holds a specialized degree in Technology in Music and Related Arts from Oberlin College Conservatory, is a two-time Grammy winner, worked with scores of the leading classical musicians over the past thirty years, etc. Eminently qualified. It is no doubt less expensive to contract this work than to hire (with insurance and other employment benefits) additional full-time staff.

        Are you a disgruntled former Met employee???

        (David Chan, the Met’s concertmaster is married to Catherine Ro, a violinist with the Met Orchestra. Shall we out them as well?)

    • Patricia says:

      Levine ought to be in prison.

    • Marge O. says:

      that’s the us empire. hu$tlers, hucksters, and opportunists.

  • DAVID says:

    Simply beyond the pale, but I’m afraid symptomatic of the very logic these new managements and boards operate under and firmly believe in. “Outsourcing” is just one among a whole conceptuality of other euphemisms — such as “downsizing,” “right-sizing,” being “nimble,” “adapting” to the “new normal,” and the like — that betrays a purely corporate view of musicians as an impersonal, swappable labor force whose price can be traded on the marketplace to the lowest bidder. To put it bluntly, this is how such logic thinks: there are good musicians all over the world, many of which might be willing to work for much less than you currently are, which means we could be saving money. Yes, the quality may not be quite as good given the product we are selling, but it doesn’t need to be top notch and should be sufficient — to be honest, our audience probably won’t notice, but our bottom line definitely will. Therefore, bring down your prices, or else be replaced by cheaper labor. Of course, you are free to leave and find work elsewhere, but you probably won’t be able to — especially given the current context — so we fully expect that you will eventually cave, because you don’t really have any other alternatives. This indeed is the harsh, cutthroat and soulless logic actually at work underneath the polished discourse of these managements which often claim in their PR efforts to value their musicians, but which in fact would be thrilled to have an en masse resignation of their entire work force, because it would finally give them this brave new world of labor they have been dreaming about for such a long time, and which might now be within reach: an Uberized, sharing economy model in which musicians are only utilized on a “pay-as-you-go” basis and lose most, if not all, the kind of benefits one might expect to get in a highly skilled and competitive field. This, unfortunately, is what happens when narrow-minded and incompetent board members, who for the most part know nothing about art and are on these boards merely due to the size of their wallets, are allowed to dictate the direction of major art organizations and, for the most part, pathetically fail their fiduciary duties as stewards of a major art form.

  • Fred says:

    And where is Yannick? Still hiding out in Canada? Will he take a stand for these musicians he supposedly considers his family? What about all of the stars who agreed to undercut the musicians? Surely they knew what was happening. They need to to be called to account as well.

    • anon says:

      But what about all the people who bought a ticket to watch this travesty of a concert? The audience, the public, bears a large responsibility for allowing Gelb to get away with this shit. Where’s the outrage?

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      Wrong. It’s not their fight.

    • Carolyn says:

      Well said. The failure of Yannick and the stars to stand up for the musicians is shameful and should be brought to the opera world’s attention

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:

      “Alas, poor Yannick! We thought we knew him, Fred. A fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.”

  • Knowing Clam says:

    I am no Gelb fan, but does this union leader realize that gatherings are limited to ten people in NYC?

    • Fred says:

      There are almost too many examples of orchestras figuring out creative ways to keep their musician artists at least nominally employed, involved and appreciated. One of the regional orchestras I play in has made numerous videos and invented online events with either limited socially distant or virtual audiences which are not ideal, but it gives a sense of community and value to the musicians and patrons alike. If we can do it, the Met certainly can.

      The Met is clearly making no effort of the sort, and instead is using every opportunity to send a clear message to its resident artists that they are not a valued part of the organization. If they could do this in Germany, where the restrictions are at least as onerous as New York, they could have just as easily done it with the Met Orchestra Musicians here.

      Gelb has made it abundantly clear he wants to break the musician and craft unions. He will not succeed.

      • Old Man in the Midwest says:

        While I would agree with your career choice (assuming you are a string player), you are correct. Most operatic work is that of a factory worker and aside from the great works of Verdi, Mozart, and Wagner, one is left playing off beats.

        However, I would argue that some of the best wind players have been groomed at the MET and then found work in world class orchestras. Their ability to “sing” is in large part due to their time playing principal in the MET and being in a supporting role to some wonderful singers.

        To my ears, these musicians have a vocal quality that is non-existent in other musicians who hold equivalent positions but have not had the experience of playing in the MET orchestra.

        • Anon says:

          “Most operatic work is that of a factory worker”??? Are you out of your f***ing mind? The operatic repertoire for musicians is among the richest most rewarding to play. I’ll throw the words you used with me right back at you: “You have no idea what you are talking about”.

          You & some of the other pompous old windbags who post here may have some superficial knowledge about music & figure it gives you the right to pontificate. Just stop it. You’ve just revealed your total ignorance with that comment, Sir. You’re a verbose, opinionated dilettante.

          You chided me in this thread when I mentioned that the AFM had intervened several years ago with Hollywood studios recording soundtracks abroad. You told me I “had no idea” what I was talking about. Who the hell do you think you are you? John Williams? Turns out I was right. It’s YOU who have no idea what you’re talking about.

          And now you’re at it again. Stop pontificating about stuff you know nothing about. Playing opera is nothing like factory work. It is one of the greatest joys a musician can experience. And I speak from experience as a veteran pro orch player.

          What a ridiculous, ignorant comment.

          • Marge O. says:

            Johnny William? The copycat of symph 2, Howard Hanson clown, The Planets-Horst? Another “fine” american example”.

    • Dude, do you realize most major orchestras are paying their musicians, albeit less? Gelb is stiffing the Met orchestra with some foul long game in mind.

    • Concerned opera buff says:

      Something’s fishy in NY. The Mayor is out dancing with his wife on New Years Eve, but nobody else is to gather? Gelb should have at least tried to have a New Year Eve or day concert with the Orchestra and Chorus. I’m watching Muti conduct the Vienna Phil concert. Why not the Met orchestra? They could have had some singers appear, and paid the artists their normal fees as a one off concert. It doesn’t have to be connected to a contract. The Met Board has really screwed up with this one.

    • Emil says:

      Indeed, that is a good point. But using foreign musicians while furloughing the house orchestra is still unforgivable. Using a pianist would be ok, IMO. Or a string quarter from the orchestra.

      Besides, gatherings are sharply limited in Bavaria too; how many musicians actually were hired? I haven’t seen any info about how many musicians played (OperaWire refers to “outside string musicians” without giving a number). It can’t have been more than 10…

      • Larry D says:

        Emil’s philosophy is, outrage first, I can’t be bothered waiting for the facts.

      • Anon says:

        “Foreign musicians”? I’m not in favor of Gelb’s actions, but do you realize the large no. of “foreign” musicians on the MET orch’s roster? These are non US players who were hired over US players to fill positions in one of the best paying orchs in the world. It’s ironic & sad that these musicians for whom the MET sponsored US work permits are now being undercut by the very colleagues they left behind in the EU.

  • EagleArts says:

    Yannick should resign in protest. Gelb is the worst. Let’s place the blame squarely on the board, they are the one enabling these grotesque shenanigans.

  • Couperin says:

    Somehow, I felt a chill in the air when Gelb took over years ago. I’m an orchestral musician but never had a desire to be in an opera orchestra. I understood the prestige of the MET but I always felt (and this is strictly my personal opinion) that an opera orchestra is glorified grunt work without much glory. A small cog in a gigantic machine. The most anyone ever mentions of an opera orchestra is that they sounded good. Nobody really cares about anything else and sadly, in the last few season there have been so many substitute players (in the winds for example) that even an average listener could hear the dip in quality. When large numbers of sub musicians play in an orchestra but could never actually win a position in the orchestra, then who cares about the prestige? Anyway, even though my own feelings about opera orchestras were just my own petty gripes, I never thought I’d see this reality come to pass! Turns out the glorious prestigious incredible high-paid MET Opera orchestra are nothing but expendable employees of an evil corporation. Oh well. Time to refinance that mortgage!

  • musician says:

    How has Yannick not spoken up about this?! Isn’t it supposed to be his orchestra? Should’t he be equally as offended about this? I have been following this nightmare for my New York colleagues since April and to my knowledge he has done nothing of substance to push back on the injustices being done to “his” musicians. I’m sure at some point he’ll donate money or something in an attempt to save face but by not standing up now to exactly this type of move by management, you have really shown your true colors. God knows he loves his shameless social media. Use your damn voice or be forever judged for what you stood by and let happen to “your” orchestra. Just despicable.

    • Anon says:

      It’s not his place. A good music director will generally stay out of labor disputes. Besides, he’s Canadian. English is his 2nd language. He may not be comfortable, as a foreigner, intervening.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    . . . and how is this terribly different than any other union busting that goes on in the U.S.?

    • Tiredofitall says:

      With the exception of a devastating pandemic and the resulting financial disaster for many. So sure, no difference at all. Wishing you good health and empathy for 2021…

  • yolo says:

    Why don’t these musicians get some other temporary jobs? It’s unfortunate that they’ve run into a pandemic and don’t have a job, and it seems juvenile to be taking anger out on management.

    • Fred says:

      How would you feel if you were furloughed from your job and then your boss hired someone from another country to fill in for you?

      • Anon says:

        Maybe the same way you feel when the MET or LA Phil or any of the best paying US orchs hire musicians from other countries instead of hiring highly qualified US players, which they do all the time.

    • William Safford says:

      “Juvenile?” Really?

      Um, what jobs? Almost nobody in the classical world is hiring or performing in the U.S. right now, certainly not on any full-time basis.

      There are scant few opportunities overseas. For each opening like the one that the Met tympanist is temporarily occupying in Seoul, there are dozens of other musicians without such an opening.

      Or, if in another career, what should that be? Many employees in other industries have already been laid off or had their hours cut back.

      For the companies that are hiring, are any of the Met orchestral musicians qualified? For example, if a company or government is hiring nurses to administer vaccines, how many Met musicians have any medical training? Perhaps a few, but not most.

      Or, I suppose they could take jobs where they ask customers: “Do you want fries with that?”….

    • Guest says:

      And what other temporary jobs might you recommend during Covid? Playing at mega-churches in the bible belt? Walmart greeters? Your comment betrays a lack of both empathy and understanding. Many if not most other major A-level orchestras have found ways to keep their players employed, if at less than their usual compensation. The MET could and should do so as well. Many consider the MET Orchestra the greatest in the US. That these players have been dispatched without pay AND are facing ugly contract negotiations in a pandemic- it’s shameful.

  • justsaying says:

    Who on the Met board is so disdainful of its orchestra as to support Gelb for one more day after this decision?

  • Lynette says:

    Evidently, no one here watched the program, which is most unfortunate. The singers were in stunning form. There was NO ORCHESTRA, only a quartet which accompanied the singers and a pianist.

    • Anon says:

      This is a really good point, Lynette! I watched a few of the trailers & you’re absolutely right.

      They used a pianist who accompanied the singers in the 1st half & a string quartet to accompany the singers later on.

      It sounded nothing like an actual gala with full orchestra. You could almost see the reaction on the faces of the singers, who are accustomed to sing the same arias with full orchestra. The instrumental accompaniments were soft and thin and not up to the magnitude of the singers’ voices.

  • Zelda Macnamara says:

    If the Met management pay any attention to what people write on the Met’s Facebook page, they will have noticed that there has been a huge recent upsurge of criticism about their behaviour towards the orchestra and the chorus. But who knows if they bother about the people who are making those comments.

  • LP says:

    Apparently the gala will take place live from Germany so it is not necessarily an absurd choice. It would have been surprising otherwise as I am not sure how these european musicians would have been able to get work visas in the US given than unions are normally asked during the process. The question is more why are they doing it in Germany.

    • Anon says:

      The MET orch is full of foreign nationals who were given US work privileges because of their MET jobs. 1. they apparently had no problems securing work permits in the US to fill positions in the MET orch. (Over US citizens, I might add); and 2. many of these foreign players in the MET have retained citizenship in their own countries & would have no problem returning there to work either under the auspices of the MET or on their own. 3. It’s not just Germany. They’re filming in “picturesque European” settings according to the ads – Norway is also listed.

  • Karl says:

    This is why Trump wants the wall and limited immigration. America first and American jobs for Americans.

    • Larry D says:

      Karl apparently hasn’t gotten the message about the election being over.

      • Karl says:

        I know the election is over but not the debate over immigration. People vote against their self interests all the time. I bet a lot of the musicians who are losing their jobs to foreigners voted against Trump.

        • Anon says:

          “Lost their jobs to foreigners”? How about the US citizen musicians who’ve lost THEIR jobs to the many foreign players in the MET orch?

          There are 5 “foreigners” playing this Gala. Their are many more “foreigners” than that holding titled positions in the MET orch. And now they’ve lost their jobs to other foreigners. What goes around comes around.

    • Fred says:

      How would a wall and limited immigration have prevented Gelb from going to Germany and hiring musicians there or hiring scabs here?

      BTW, Trump still lost.

    • Anon says:

      Newsflash: the MET orch never got that memo. They regularly hire foreign players over qualified US musicians.

    • Eden Elieff says:

      Yes, Trump has spoke so often about the state of American music and culture. He’s had one “musician” in the WH: Kid Rock. I kid you not.

    • Marge O. says:

      Dorfman is very smart; Consider this sentence:

      “If we think of Trump’s reign not as an outlier but the extreme expression of a morbidity that has been accumulating since the birth of the country, rooted in the tangles of our collective history and DNA…”

      Trumpi is no anomaly, no ‘outlier’; he is an icon of who the us was, down to its’ very DNA, and going back to the late 16thC of a horrid past and a corporation (“country”) founded on hustling and huckstering via imperialism. The (farcical) MSM will not discuss this as this requires a thinking populace. Did this core problem (identified by Dorfman) ever get discussed in an open forum? Of course not, and it won’t now. The NYT, Wash Compost, etc… and other “media” ram their heads up their rears, roll around like donuts, and contribute to the national propaganda disease, and the coming national collapse. Who realizes this? Dorfman, Native Americans, and maybe 200 other us-ians–c’est tout.

  • True North says:

    One thing that hasn’t really been made clear here is that the performance was apparently filmed in Augsburg, Germany, although why they chose to do that, I do not know. But that is presumably the reason for using European musicians. Regardless, the optics of this decision are dreadful, and quite tone-deaf, given the current situation of the orchestra.

  • Walter says:

    AVAILABLE ON DEMAND

    Met Stars Live in Concert: New Year’s Eve Gala

    Available through January 13 at 11:59 pm ET

    The Met rings in the new year with a gala performance featuring a dazzling quartet of Met stars—sopranos Angel Blue and Pretty Yende, and tenors Javier Camarena and Matthew Polenzani—live from the Parktheater im Kurhaus Göggingen, in Augsburg, Germany, a stunning example of neo-Baroque architecture. The program will include arias, duets, and ensembles from Donizetti to Puccini, as well as arrangements of operetta and Neapolitan songs. The ornate Parktheater, a marvel of glass and cast-iron, opened in 1886 and was designed to evoke the English pleasure gardens of the 18th and 19th centuries.

    The New Year’s Eve Gala is part of the Met’s fundraising campaign to support the company and protect its future. Any donation you make to the New Year’s Eve Gala will be matched dollar-for-dollar, thanks to a generous grant from Bank of America.

  • Anon says:

    Gelb isn’t the 1st to do this. Unfortunately, it’s similar to what’s happened to many Hollywood film soundtracks. They get outsourced to non-union musicians in mostly Eastern Europe.

    As long as there’s such a huge discrepancy between orch. salaries & conditions in Europe and the US, it’s probably going to happen.

    I remember that the AFM intervened in the Hollywood soundtrack situation & as I recall they got a ruling enacted that if a film is produced in the US the soundtrack has to be recorded in the US.

    The AFM should do something similar now to bar this brazen outsourcing of the MET orch.

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:

      Sorry but you don’t know what you are talking about. There are plenty of movies and gaming sound tracks made in the US outside of AFM jurisdiction.

      • Anon says:

        You’re right, I probably don’t. But the point I’m making is that Gelb is not the 1st to outsource to European musicians. Hollywood film studios have been doing it for a long time. I thought that the AFM had somehow intervened, limiting this in some way. I remember that there was a justifiable furor over it a while ago, but I was just speculating as to what actually happened.

      • Anon says:

        To Old Man: as a postscript to my previous reply to you, I just googled it. A basic search shows that in 2015 the AFM filed a lawsuit against 3 major US film studios – Paramount, MGM & Warner Bros. – for recording film soundtracks outside of the US. Here’s the link: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/musicians-guild-sues-warner-bros-791588

        • Old Man in the Midwest says:

          I do not disagree with your basic argument which is that sound tracks have been outsourced from the traditional studios of Hollywood. I only disagree with your premise that it has all gone to Europe and Eastern Europe. There is/was an active non-union industry in Seattle for much of the past few decades that eroded the LA scene. But even those gigs have left for cheaper pastures in Eastern Europe. Not sure how a lawsuit can prevent a producer from outsourcing this part of the movie production. It’s quite unfortunate as in terms of an overall percentage, my guess is that hiring an orchestra is inexpensive compared to other costs related to making a movie.

          • Anon says:

            Didn’t Seattle secede from the AFM some time ago? They can’t really expect union protection on this.

            Look, I’m not an attorney. But yes, there are ways. I don’t have time to google this whole situation, but as I recall the AFM was able to pass a measure with the studios that if a film is officially produced in the US, then the soundtrack must be recorded there. That is perfectly logical & reasonable to administer. The AFM would be monitoring a US film studio. The studios are subject to US laws.

    • Marge O. says:

      they do not have to do anything. that’s the us empire. no employment rights except racial, disability, gender/sex, national origin, ). You’re on your own in the us empire. that group can do whatever and hire whomeever for cheap. that’s the us!

  • SHO says:

    Amen
    Albeit, the author doesn’t mention the Met musicians refusal to cross the stagehands “lines,” but even if that were mentioned, I doubt Met management made its decision as a result of that because I doubt it would have had enough time to organize replacement musicians and replacement venue in the last three-four weeks since the Met musicians decided to act in solidarity with the stagehands (a decision which at the time I did not, but now very much do support.)

    No. This is the action of a bunch of beknighted creeps. To be clear, the musicians played into managements hands (who would have thought Peter Gelb a conductor?) by (rightfully) standing with the stagehands. The only potential redeeming scenario for the Met is if it can be shown that it paid equal to or greater funds for the German venue and musicians as it would have using a domestic location and its own orchestra. In that case, management might legitimately (if speciously) claim it made its decision based solely on safety and prudence as it saw its duty. But why, in light of the pandemic, did it make this decision in the dark of night?

    Absent an audit of the Opera’s books that shows they paid a sum for this off site production consistent with what they would have paid domestically, or showing that everyone from managing agent, to grandest diva, to lowest laborer involved with the German production donated their time and talent, then this is nothing more than a smarmy attempt to squeeze a nickel from the pockets of the Met’s supporters on the backs of the Met’s staff.

    In that case, Met management has eaten its seed corn, and done little more than pick the pockets of its supporters. Its actions are egregious. It is time for The Board to do what boards do.

  • Interesting that announcements about these concerts is published on the Met’s website while all the details is placed on the Brightcove website (company which is responsible for broadcasting, as far as I understand).

  • Dayton Gal says:

    Before you all get those knickers in a twist, three of the four artists were already to have been part of the Metropolitan Artist recital series, but their concerts were canceled due to covid restrictions.
    In effect, this Gala was a “make up” concert for the people who already subscribed to the series and perhaps a way for the artists to fulfill their contract.

  • Emilee says:

    Welcome to capitalism. Where everything, and I mean EVERYTHING has it’s price.

    • Patricia says:

      Yet none of those musicians would work for free, would they? And why should they? Capitalism is necessary – unless you are a marxist and pay no one except the ones at the top of the heap.

  • TrumpHater says:

    Ummm… Hello? A gala concert couldn’t be held in New York right now. Things are such a mess in the US because your president didn’t want to deal with the pandemic. Thank goodness the orange Cheeto is on his way out.

    The concert took place in Germany where there are fewer restrictions. The US government needs to do a lot more for arts organizations if they’re going to survive.

  • Eric Wright says:

    Peter Gelb is a waste of the carbon he’s made of.

  • Large says:

    MET should be destroyed musically.Only managers should remain.Let loose the bounds of musician union.Oh wait did that just happen?And not only in states?What a great orchestra that would be putting all GM’s to work a week together.

  • Owner says:

    I can’t stand this kind of sensationalism.

    Why do so many people who have never suffered bodily injury at the hands of weaponry insist on using a term like “attack”?

    Many of these comments and sentiments of the musicians/artists smell like complacency with their *past* employment and now reek of jealousy through and through.

    An attack is something that puts people in hospitals, not something that raises money so others can have a future job.

    If anybody was indeed attacked, please produce the receipts, the medical bills, something. Don’t pettily whine on the Internet about nonsense like “the entire industry is out of work” when there are people still working their asses off (with or without the MET) who HAVE experienced real-world attacks.

    It’s petty and overblown.

  • Reality Sux says:

    The union rules at the Met make it so that’s impossible to hire a fraction of the orchestra without hiring the whole orchestra. A similar issue was encountered in the Met’s now canceled performances of Breaking the Waves by Missy Mazzoli, which were to be held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in June 2020 – it would have been necessary to add a rider to the contract just to allow a chamber orchestra to play those, while other members stay at home and possibly still get paid. In other words, to pay a string quartet of players would mean having to pay the whole orchestra for the Gala performance, and according to specific, generous financial agreements. That the Met preferred not to get into a pickle with its unions over the accompaniment of the Gala, especially with the ongoing lockout of the stagehands, which technically means no crossing the picket line anyway, could be said to make sense.

    • SVM says:

      You suggest that the Met Orchestra contract is too generous in that it pays all orchestra musicians even if only a chamber orchestra is required. But are those “other members [who] stay at home and possibly still get paid” allowed to accept outside engagements at the same time as the chamber gig for which they are surplus to requirements (genuine question — I have no idea)? Or are they required to be ‘on call’, in case a player due to play at the gig became indisposed at short notice? If an employer compels an employee to refuse outside engagements at a given time, then the employer must surely pay the employee (I say “surely” because I am not familiar with USA employment law), even if the employer ends up not requiring the employee’s services.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    I am not sure I have a dog in this fight but will just say this. It is my general impression of opera and ballet audiences (and I am sure there are exceptions) that they are not particularly appreciative or aware of the artistic quality of the orchestra down in the pit, provided the reasons why they are attending — the voices, the dancing – are up to snuff. If the audiences were more appreciative then it would be more important to Met Opera leadership to make sure its excellent orchestra is intact, poised and ready when public performances are once again possible. It evidently is not very important.

    They may well be on the slippery slope to dismantling or at least gutting an ensemble that took time and effort and money to gather, but my hunch is that they would not dare do so if their subscribers and donors made it clear that this is unacceptable. How many subscribers and donors would the Met lose if the orchestra started over from scratch, or was made up of your average New York metropolitan area freelancers (which means, it could be a pretty darn good orchestra), hired on a per service basis? I am aware that the intense performance demands the Met involves relies greatly on a full time orchestra having its repertoire “in their fingers,” so perhaps my scenario is unrealistic. Nothing says things would have to be the way they were, of course.

    My sole point is that I do not think the Met administration would be going this route if they thought helping and saving the orchestra members was essential to the people paying the freight. In the bigger picture this fund raising concert brouhaha is a mere distraction. The folks at the Local should probably be concentrating their energies on the bigger issues which confront them.

  • Working Class says:

    I will save my tears for the low wage Met workers, who will be replaced, or currently unemployed. It must be horrible when wealthy people realize they too are replaceable. Where was the orchestra outrage when this happens to others?

    Are there fundraisers for the low wage workers, or are we staying sad for people who cry poor despite making $350K a year?

  • John Ranur says:

    Why are so many people blaming management? If the musicians know anything about compromise, and not so stubborn, they probably would’ve gotten paid already…

  • Musician says:

    I have read all of the comments here, and I would like to chime in here with my two cents. I am a professional orchestral musician who holds a principal position in an orchestra outside of the US. I am American and have had the incredible opportunity to perform as a substitute musician with the Met Opera on numerous occasions, sometimes at the very last minute (I really mean last-minute, like getting a phonecall at 6pm for an 8pm show). I have also had the opportunity to sub with some of the other top orchestras in the US. Truly, the Met Orchestra is unparalleled. Sure, all the top orchestras in the world are fantastic, but where I think the Met Orchestra truly shines is in its ability to morph and adapt like water to the spontaneity of the moment in any given performance. In addition to playing as a last-minute sub I have also joined the Met in a few productions. No two performances of a production are the same. Tempos change, dynamics change, overall ambiance changes constantly. This allows for complete artistic freedom that I have not seen in any other orchestra.

    I would also like to mention that xenophobia has no place in the music world. I am reading comments here stating that we should be prioritizing Americans…no, we should be prioritizing the highest level of musical excellency, period. This outrage would be no less diminished had the New Year’s Eve gala taken place with musicians from Miami, or Seattle, or anywhere in the United States.

    Here is a link to a (lengthy) article from the New Yorker from 2015, which provides a detailed history to how the Met got to this unfortunate position. I see many passionate audience members of the Met here. I urge you all to read the article to fully understand just how dire the situation is.
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/23/a-fight-at-the-opera?fbclid=IwAR3k9aV5oajXjBKztux_j8uI2mBx6wYzAU5FfbzM8e-aO8U36RAIOnzUwIc

    • Anon says:

      Musician, if you work outside the US, as do I, then you know that other countries prioritize hiring their own citizens. Check the orch. rosters in the UK, Germany, France, Vienna – despite a sprinkling of foreign musicians, the jobs are given primarily to citizens of that country. It’s a priority to keep their own musicians employed. In the US it is not.

      Perhaps if the US made a point to hire US talent, you could be working in the US in an actual titled position with the MET or another of the top orchs you’ve mentioned instead of getting sloppy seconds as a last minute sub.

      Prioritizing the “highest level of music excellency” is subjective & can easily encompass the hiring of US musicians.

    • Working Class says:

      This is how we got there: The Met has no income for 10 months. No, on demand and Met Shop does not count.

      There is no ability for normal fundraising.

      No income creates dire situations.

  • Anon says:

    The string players who played the Gala are the “Vienna Morphing Quintet”. Facebook link with their names & photos here: https://www.facebook.com/morphingmusic/

    They’ve collaborated on previous MET transmissions from Europe. Unless they’re living under a rock, they must realize that they are scabbing for the furloughed MET musicians. Looks like the cellist has a background in law. He might need that.

    The pianist, whose role in this concert is actually OK in my opinion, is a rehearsal pianist for Vienna State Opera. https://www.wiener-staatsoper.at/en/artists/opera/detail/artist/747-restier-cecile/

  • Sharon says:

    Why does On Demand and the fund raising free streamings not count when they cost virtually nothing to put on and they raise so much money?

    I am surprised that the bloggers have not mentioned that the Met DOES receive some government monies, especially from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council for the Arts. While it is not the bulk of its funding, as it is for arts institutions in Europe it does mean that government does have the right to have some oversight.

    Thus, the AFM should not only write an angry letter to MET management but also take this up with the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council for the Arts, and the committees overseeing government arts funding in both the US Congress and the New York State legislature. Government officials and bureaucrats might become quite annoyed if government money is used to hire foreign nationals while the US New York State resident musicians remain unemployed and receiving government unemployment funds.

  • Sharon says:

    Having said this, if the purpose of the concert is fundraising, of course the MET would want to keep costs as low as possible. Not only would MET musicians receive higher salaries but there would also be substantial travel expenses which they would not have by using local musicians.

    What concerns me, and what I believe should be a national embarrassment, is the fact that MET singers are traveling to Europe NOT for cultural exchange but instead to raise money, as if it were an opera company from a lesser developed country!

    I realize that government arts funding is a very low priority in the US but just the way more privileged musicians should not take the opportunities that might more rightfully belong to others less fortunate (ie lower status or marginal venues or programs) shouldn’t opportunities in wealthy countries for fund raising for operas be reserved for operas companies from poor countries?

    There are only so many galas even wealthy people are willing to attend at gala ticket prices, the “charity circuit” notwithstanding

    • William Safford says:

      I have the impression that it’s not that the singers are *traveling* to Europe to sing for the Met, but that they’re *already there*.

      If I were a singer with ties to Europe, I’d rather be there, residing in one of the countries with good national COVID hygiene practices, than remain in the U.S., where the pandemic is out of control and almost unchecked. Contracting COVID could easily be the kiss of death of a singer’s career, due to possible respiratory and other damage.

  • Sharon says:

    Correction–the phrase should have read
    “shouldn’t opportunities in wealthy countries for fund raising for FOREIGN opera companies be reserved for opera companies from poor countries?”

  • Marge O. says:

    Maybe the us empire can donate a portion of the annual, 740,000,000,000$ war mongering budget and close a few of the 800+ overseas us war bases to help the Met?

  • Michael says:

    Gelb should be fired, his salary used to pay the musicians and staff. The guy is a failure and a joke.

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