Broadway reopens on September 14. But not the Met

Broadway reopens on September 14. But not the Met


norman lebrecht

May 10, 2021

When the lights go on again in New York, it looks like the Metropolitan Opera will still be dark.

Its general manager Peter Gelb has locked out the stagehands and is in varying degrees of confrontation with the musicians, whose wages he withheld for a year. New York wants its opera back but a soporific board and a bumptious manager may not be able to deliver.

We hear that things are on a knife-edge right now and goodwill is nowhere to be seen.

Beyond bad labour relations, the Met’s prolonged paralysis is costing it public support. The NY Philharmonic has maintained contact with the city by taking its music out on bandwaggons and utilising the potential of the Shed. The Philharmonic still feels relevant to New York while the Met has faded to black.

Reviving it won’t be easy, and that task may well be beyond the capabilities of the present management.

The clock is ticking.




  • Yes Addison says:

    The last time there was a standoff between labor and management at contract time (2014), the last of the union agreements wasn’t reached until a little more than a month before scheduled start of the season. The stagehands agreed to terms on August 20; the season opened on September 22. I had no expectation that this time the negotiations would be faster or smoother. This will likely go on for most of the summer.

    • MET FAN says:

      true, however last time current contracts were extended in order to allow everyone to continue working during the ongoing negotiations. Not the case presently.

  • Bill says:

    Gelb can stamp his feet all he wants; he can replace the musicians in the pit with the Queens Community Band; he can build sets in Kazakhstan at 1/8 th the cost, carry them over mountains by pack mule and then load them on a slow boat to Newark; he can shop for costumes at the Salvation Army thrift shop… but nothing moves in or out of that theater without local 1.

  • sam says:

    The Met is a car wreck that you can”t turn your eyes away from, you keep watching to see who’s dead, who’s maimed, who was at fault, who survives….

    There is no good will on either side, too much has happened, all sides are playing chicken at this point, the first to swerve is the loser, if neither side swerves, both sides will die in a head on crash.

    Met’s death will come either quick and violent, or long and insufferable limping along for a decade to come with a seething orchestra and stage crew.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Sadly, well stated. In the meantime, much of the audience has moved on. Witness NYCO. We used to value the Met as one of the pillars of NYC culture. No longer.

      • Bill says:

        Enough with the hyperbole, the audience hasn’t moved anywhere. It’s not like there’s anywhere for audiences to move to right now.

        The NYCO failure was a completely different set of circumstances that were years in the making, starting with the move from the City Center theater to Lincoln Center and culminating with the eviction from the New York State theater for David Koch’s vanity renovation. It was madness to think they could survive in a theater ill suited for Opera directly across the plaza from the Met.

        The only ones who don’t value the Met as a pillar of NYC culture are Peter Gelb and the derelict board of the Met.
        Long after Gelb is retired and the current board have cashed in their portfolios and their trust funds, the Met will endure.

        • Tiredofitall says:

          You don’t live in New York City, clearly. The Met is well on it’s way to completing it’s 12-year campaign to become irrelevant.

          • Bill says:

            I have lived in New York City my entire life. I have friends that played in the NYCO and currently play in the Met Orchestra. I also know people who are stage hands and scenic artists at the Met.

            As a general rule, I don’t tend to trust the negative prognostications of anonymous people who choose to go by the name “Tired of it All” on a comments board.

    • The View from America says:

      Dying with a whimper seems more probable — witness the NYC Opera.

    • Monsoon says:

      It’s silly to think that the Met is facing some kind of imminent death.

      Eventually the Met will reopen with a new labor contract. The worst case scenario is that it takes a while, which dampens audience interest, and they continue to lose key orchestra members. But it will be back and around for many, many years.

      The Met’s longterm problems remain unchanged, just accelerated: Extremely high operating costs and flat ticket sales. Even had this never happened, at some point that Met was going to need to reduce the number of days it operates, perform part of its season in smaller theaters, and/or seek deep cuts to labor costs.

      If you really want to blame something on the Gelb, it’s that he waited too long to make structural changes to boost ticket sales, such as changing the performance calendar to accommodate when people actually want to go to the opera. Adding a Sunday matinee, dropping Monday night, and shifting the schedule to go dark in February made a ton of sense — the ticket sale data all supports it — but it should have done it years ago.

      That being said, everyone at the Met — management, the unions, and the board — are going to need to have a come to Jesus moment and accept that downsizing must happen. There just isn’t enough ticket and contributed revenue to maintain a $300 million budget. And new marketing campaigns and audience friendly productions aren’t going to do enough to make a difference.

      • Sharon says:

        One of the things that the Met should cater to is the working 9 am – 5 pm audience. The NYCB has recognized the popularity of 7:30 pm weekday tickets.

        Before Covid some off-off Broadway theaters were even having 6:30 pm performances. It makes a lot of sense for those who live in the outer boros or suburban communities, which is everybody, to go to a performance right after work, or right after a quick supper after work, and then go home and be in bed before 11 pm on a weekday night.

  • NYMike says:

    I tuned into WQXR’s Saturday b’cast of the MET’s fall 2019 opening gala conducted by YNS and featuring Netrebko in an act each from Bohéme, Tosca and Turandot. I was struck by the absolute precision of the orchestra and chorus. Will NYC lose this? A great loss if it does….

  • Anon says:

    What exactly, if any, is the offer that management has made to the orchestra?
    I read strong opinions about this, but nobody seems to be able to clearly spell out, in public, what the offer is.