Union to the Met: No talks, no reopening

Union to the Met: No talks, no reopening


norman lebrecht

February 18, 2021

The stagehands union has laid it on the line:

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which represents roughly 800 artistic and technical workers at the Metropolitan Opera, this week is warning in print and through social media that “unless the Met’s management returns to the bargaining table and treats workers fairly, there will be no opera in 2021.”

The advertisements, in response to The Met’s December lockout of IATSE members, begin with the headline: “The Metropolitan Opera Without People Is Nothing.” The ads caution that without additional negotiations: “The Metropolitan Opera House will remain dark and quiet, a vacant warehouse.”

In December, Peter Gelb, The Met’s general manager, announced that he was “locking out” stage technicians and shop crew members such as carpenters and electricians who build sets at The Met and who are represented by IATSE Local 1, cutting off their wages and stopping the production of sets at Met facilities for the 2021 opera season. 

The Met’s new season is scheduled to begin in September. 



  • Freddy says:

    I can almost hear James Levine laughing somewhere.

    Although I’m sure Gelb will tell us that watching reruns of the Battle, Rip van Domingo, and Netrebko in almost blackface is just as good as the real thing.

  • Y says:

    After the Met came out as yet another leftwing extremist organization by hiring a High Inquisito–I mean a “Chief Diversity Officer,” I really don’t care. I won’t be attending any future performances.

    • True North says:

      Wow, that “chief diversity officer” thing has really taken over the minds of all the right-wing trolls here. You just can’t stop talking about it, even when it’s completely off-topic. But perhaps you have “Diversity Derangement Syndrome (DDS).”

      • Stuart says:

        The Met’s chief diversity officer decision was pretty foolish given its timing, but it is a similar obsession with some who can’t stop talking about Trump. We all have our obsessions…Mine currently involves operas by Handel and Vivaldi (and a few by Vinci – what a find…)

      • Mezzo says:

        There are too many existing employees that have gone without a paycheck. That’s the focus ‘True North’. You’re not American and ignorant of what’s happened beyond Canada; that’s all.

        Creating an unnecessary position the Met can’t afford exacerbates the pain of those left behind by the opera house. That’s why singers, players, staff, etc feel even more betrayed. Their hard work and dedication to reach what was once a pinnacle of opera is now a sad, hopeless joke. They’re BROKE both in terms of money and spirit! As a singer, it’s very dehumanizing.

    • Larry D says:

      Encouraging diversity is “leftwing extremist”? So you prefer to deprive yourself of future performances? What a principled snowflake you are!

    • EU person says:

      It is really interesting.. Met can’t afford paying salary to most important employees like musicians, choir members, stage workers. At the same time Met can afford to pay absolutely useless employee like Chief diversity officer. Talented people don’t need CDO. Remember Leontyne Price for example. As for now – Angel Blue and Pretty Yende.

      • George H. says:

        The last 2 sound like porn names. LMFAO!!!!

        Nobody cares about the singer’s welfare anyway. Folks on this blog only care if you play with yourself via an instrument. The Met is just appeasing BLM so pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain..

        Mr. Lebrecht needs to read White Fragility and alter his preconceived prejudices. Make a great blog story to bear his privilege!

        Having class is considered too white anyway; especially today.

  • NYMike says:

    It’s not a good idea to fight with Local 1.

    • JoshW says:

      True – better to meet their out of touch demands so that ticket prices at the Met and on Broadway become even more exorbitant and their products become even more irrelevant to the majority of the public.

  • mary says:

    who will fold first?

    I think audience demand for opera will be softer than workers’ need for work in 2021. I project revenues to be far less than payroll through 2022 even if the Met had a full season. The Board can afford to wait out the siege.

    • barry guerrero says:


    • Tiredofitall says:

      Don’t discount the way of NYCO. Despite CO’s years of teetering on the edge, no one really thought they’d see its total demise.

      The allegiance of the Met’s audience is greater than the board’s, and the board can pick up their toys and move on.

      There will be no 2021-22 season at the Met, more’s the pity. Mark my words.

    • anon says:

      Even ten years ago, “In 2011, for example, the four top stagehands at the Metropolitan Opera earned more than $500,000 each in total compensation (including retirement and other benefits), tax filings showed.” (NYT article from 2013)

      So I don’t buy at all the sob story of impoverished Met players and stagehands, a good many are sitting on pretty nest eggs and investment income (the stock market is at an all time high), and they can wait out Peter Gelb as much as Peter Gelb can wait them out.

      It could be a stalemate for a long long time, a battle of will between millionaires.

      • Musician says:

        Wrong. The musicians are not millionaires. You may be a jealous a-hole but they definitely did not get rich on those salaries in NY.

        • PierGiorgio Maffei says:

          Incorrect. A career at the Met as an orchestra member, chorister, or stagehand and your net worth is easily over $1 million. They do earn 6-figure salaries. A principal flutist who retired a few years ago was up to $450k per year.

      • another musician says:

        you are so far off it is incredible.

      • Tom Phillips says:

        Stagehands and musicians are very different categories.

  • Michael Blim says:

    Peter Gelb has acted in bad faith throughout and forced the union into making threats that he probably prefers as the new reality anyway.

  • Ian Webber says:

    Peter (a White male) really needs to check his White privilege or have an intervention staged by the Met’s new Chief Diversity Officer they can’t afford.

    Otherwise just start selling off all of the Met assets and what’s left of Lincoln Center while the Board is busy justifying itself. There’s nothing to “understand” here anymore either between King Cuomo’s refusal to re-open auditoriums and the Met’s antagonism. No work, NO INCOME!

    Peter is just a little prick and ruining the reputation of Lincoln Center as he puts money above “the voice must be heard” rubbish without paying the opera singers! Remember them?!?!

    • NotToneDeaf says:

      What does Gelb’s being white have to do with this? I thought this was an economic issue and not a racial one. Also, you do understand that the Met and Lincoln Center are separate entities? And lastly, you’re saying that he should also be paying the singers (i.e., cast members) for phantom productions that were never even cast? I grant you that there are a lot of issues to debate here but your convoluted offering is nonsensical.

      • Sophie W. says:

        You ARE tone deaf and clearly not a native New Yorker!! You’re not even from the US based on your ignorance so I’ll help you.

        Peter’s White Privilege is obvious as was the identical privilege of the past white male predecessors. He and the Board as well as the Guild are too white and need to be reformed. He needs to be canceled for his lack of operatic knowledge of singers as well as embarrassing lack of business acumen.

        The fact that Lincoln Center as a whole is an ugly, white monument to racism is something you and others aren’t educated on. Do you know of the San Juan Hill neighborhood? Do you know who Robert Moses was? Do you know who imminent domain is most often used against?


        The core of the Opera House are the singers! As another lady mentioned here our colleagues have had to not only leave the city they love but have abandoned the profession with no prospects for work either here or within the US for the most part. Changing professions has been too difficult since companies aren’t hiring anymore. Those that have postings get shut down under Killer Cuomo and DUMB de Blasio’s fickle edicts a lot. The lack of work and deepening poverty have been too much to bear and some of our colleagues have killed themselves.

        Does all of this help you to understand the realities of our profession besides everyone else who is enduring the same issues with dwindling savings and ONLY promises from Biden?? I voted for him btw so my perspective is rooted in the little hope I can hang on to for his stimulus commitment we’re all still waiting for. I left NYC in June for the sunny South and a room after my close singer friend jumped from a building when he couldn’t pay $3,100/mo for rent after his second job also laid him off and closed for good under Cuomo. He couldn’t get through to unemployment and just decided to leave his savings to his girlfriend and their son. He was a proud Latin man who lost all his income within a week and wanted to give her a decent ring and a nice wedding. Death was cheaper.

  • 1234567890 says:

    What happened to the post about Omar The Master of English Language? Did he threatened with a lawsuit? Tell us all the juicy details.

    • John Taylor says:

      I believe he used his victimhood to pressure Norman to take it down. It’s sad that Norman caved on this. Alas, cancel culture everywhere.

    • BruceB says:

      NL says he took it down because a commenter from this site tracked down his personal e-mail address and used it to harass him.

      (He may have taken down the comment where he said that, too. IIRC it was on one of the “no new concert hall” posts and now I can’t find it.)

      • 1234567890 says:

        Harass with what? Defamation lawsuit? Wouldn’t work, Omar defamed himself with his own post, this site only brought the light on existing issue Omar openly talked about.

        It’s not anyone’s fault that this kid needs to learn how to use Facebook. And maybe seek anger management specialist.

    • 0987654321 says:

      Norman realized randomly publishing an individual’s business on here because it has to do with a conservatory in the UK was a bit low, even for him and his clearly cuckolded commenters. What is it like to get your rocks off to 19th century syphilitic German music?

      • Seriously? says:

        That’s racist af what you are saying. His commenters, for the most part, just found amusement in his clearly psychotic personality, welcome to the internet and chill man.

        • Henry Myrll says:

          This is pathetic. Now that this happened, I will definitely make sure Omar hears some of these comments. I’ll send him a very polite message over on his website. Dont worry, I’m not malicious or anything. I just want Omar to be aware of his antics and that he cant just sweep it all under the rug. Please join in if you want –


          See ya on the other side folks.

          • 1234567890 says:

            “I’m not malicious or anything”, but you are encouraging people to spam Omar… sure, Henry.

        • Seriously. says:

          I’ve been on the internet longer than you, my friend.
          1. How is this comment racist?
          2. Why are you so mad?

  • caranome says:

    it’s Maggie Thatcher (Gelb) vs. Arthur Scargill (union) round 2. Thatcher in a rout in round 1. Again in round 2? No way Met can afford its employees anymore. The laws of economics will always win no matter the rhetoric, optics, sentiments. “Eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

  • J Barcelo says:

    When you consider all the problems NY is having with the coronavirus, all the businesses closed down because of it, the homeless situation, wealthier people fleeing the city, the survival of the MET is a low priority. It’s become extraordinarily and outrageously expensive. Too many over-paid people; and not just the ones on stage or in the pit. Time to get lean, get back to basics and rebuild a nationwide audience.

    • Patricia says:

      Not to mention the socialist deBlasio who is running Gnu York City into the ground, with help from Gov Cuomo, who is being investigated by the FBI.

    • Ashu says:

      Right, what we should really care about right now is things like lost jobs and increasing homelessness, so…

  • JussiB says:

    That’s karma for firing James Levine based on false but trendy allegations, they lost the best music director the Met has ever had.

  • New Yorker says:

    How’s Yannick doing? Anyone hear from him lately? God knows no one in the company has. COWARD.

    • Fat Bob says:

      I suppose Yannick is too busy with choosing right color of lipstick and the best high heels shoes. He doesn’t care Met musicians, no doubts.

      • JoshW says:

        Oh cool, now we have homophobic posts here. If anything should be taken down, it’s this. Now.

        • Fat Bob says:

          Yannick can use his ass as he wants. The problem is he is too selfish and doesn’t care musicians of Met orchestra. He lived at luxury hotels and post his pictures in robes, while Met musicians have to leave NY as they can not afford living there. Hope he will be fired after Met re-opening.

  • Norman where are you? says:

    What happened to the Omar story about an alleged ethnic tokenism by Guildhall? Did you take it down Norman? Why? Did they pressure you into taking it down? This is terrible, cancel culture is really getting to everything. Nothing is left for dialogue. You have to atleast explain why you took down a post with nearly 150 comments on it!! Especially such a controversial one! I thought that what Slipped Disc stood for!

  • surprisingly empathetic to pete says:

    Take your time, Gelb. The pandemic won’t be sorted out in time for the season’s intended opening. The unions are just trying to use the same tricks that they usually do, but they are woefully ineffective in this time when the world is still burning.

  • Freddynyc says:

    Hard to sympathize with the stagehands when they’re holding out for their previous significant 6 digit salaries…..

  • BruceB says:

    Keeping the Met closed indefinitely would suit Gelb’s purposes just fine. He wants a smaller company, and the longer it stays closed, the smaller it can be when it opens again.

  • Kenneth J Wayne says:

    It was a good run while it lasted.

  • Kenny says:

    Anyone who expects The Met or Broadway to open on schedule is smoking something I don’t want.