Peter Gelb fails to get the Met cuts he wants

Peter Gelb fails to get the Met cuts he wants


norman lebrecht

May 26, 2021

Details are being published of the Met’s much-hailed new agreement with AGMA, the chorus and dancers union, and it’s not looking good for Peter Gelb’s boast of making significant savings.

The headline figures:

Pay for non-soloist singers and dancers will be reduced by up to 3.7 percent until July 2024.

Designated soloists will lose 6% on fees up to $6,000 and 8% on fees from $6-10k.

This is a limited saving since those at the upper end of this scale will be represented by agents who make sure they do not lose out. The gain for Gelb is tiny.

Above $10,000, where Gelb claims to have achieved a 9-12% cut, were are talking of major artists all of whom are agented and none would agree to such terms.

In sum, the AGMA deal is a damp squib for the Met.

And Gelb has yet to make any headway at all in his dealing with the orchestra and stagehands.



  • Nick2 says:

    This is surely a surprise to absolutely no one. The last time Gelb had Union negotiations he insisted the Met would be bankrupt in a few years unless he achieved swingeing cuts. The amount in savings was hardly more than peanuts.

    If I recall correctly, those cuts were to be in tandem with a major new fund raising drive led by the Board. Anyone know how much extra was actually raised? Peanuts, probably!

  • Monsoon says:

    The soloists in AGMA are not the top billed soloists (e.g. Netrebko, Kaufmann, etc.) who have agents and get paid the top fees.

    These are in-house singers much farther down the totem poll who are not chorus members.

    They’re going to be bound by this contract (U.S. labor law prohibits individual union members from negotiating their own contract), but my guess is that most have fees in the lowest tier, and thus, are only seeing a 6 percent cut.

    • An opinionated woman says:

      Every single singer who appears at the Metropolitan Opera has to be a member of AGMA in good standing or they are not allowed to perform. This is explicitly stated in their guest artist contracts. Netrebko, Kaufman, etc are all members of AGMA if only for the sole purpose of performing at the Met once a season.

      • Monsoon says:

        Let me clarify: They may be AGMA members — or members of another union — but they are not part of the AGMA local that negotiated this deal and bound by its collective bargaining agreement.

  • Anon says:

    “Above $10,000, where Gelb claims to have achieved a 9-12% cut, were are talking of major artists all of whom are agented and none would agree to such terms.”

    “Agented” artists are agreeing (in reality they have no choice) to these renegotiations every day across the whole music sector. Why would singers be any different?

  • An opinionated woman says:

    I believe all the soloists cuts are being incorporated into the collective bargaining agreement which makes them pretty much untouchable for the agents to try to re-negotiate on behalf of their individual artists. Technically, through the CBA, AGMA has agreed to the cuts on behalf of ALL their members which includes the soloists. So all those artists making the top tier fees are absolutely facing cuts of 9-12% right now on all their contracts for the next 4 years and they are going to have a hard time fighting them.

    • Saxon says:

      They could just decide not to appear in the show, unless they were given a new contract. Being major artists, they have plenty of places elsewhere to go.

  • musician says:

    He is an utter failure from all angles. THEGELBMUSTGO.

    • NotToneDeaf says:

      So he didn’t succeed in getting massive cuts and that makes him a failure. But yet if he had succeeded, you’d be saying that he’s trying to starve the performers and that would make him a failure as well. Right? Just be honest – you haven’t succeeded in your professional goal to perform at the Met so it feels good to talk about how awful it all is.

    • Davenport says:

      Peter Gelb insisted on “ Met saving cuts” at the last negotiation too. As part of the agreement, the Executive Board of Directors were to use their significant clout to restore the Metropolitan Operas Endowment, once, built strong by GM JOSEPH VOLPE, at 300 million, and pillaged by GELB, as soon as he took over. At that time, the Mets credit rating dropped from triple A, to B – or something. Peter sold priceless pieces of art, given to the opera house, put the Chagalls up as collateral, but continued spending, on whatever HE WANTED. We will never know how he bamboozled the Executive board, then and continues to do it today. Many of them can’t stand his new productions, but have been bullied by a couple of tough talking business men, clueless about the arts, who seem to be steering the ship to a watery grave. There is no active artistic consultant on the Metropolitan Operas board of directors. This bears saying twice. Gelb blames “ the unions” ( actually the PRODUCT .. singers, dancers musicians builders/ sets / props/ lighting/ audio/ electrics/ costumes /wigs/ designers / technicians / brilliant, talented, highly educated personnel for the costs. Does he think they can spend 14 hours a day there for nothing ? He always grossly inflates one persons salary as an example of an entire groups wages too! It’s laughable . Consider that all he has done is systematically erode the contracts, as he makes over 2 million, chorus master makes half a million, bonus’ no doubt, and millions spent on retaining union busters PROSKAUER ROSE, as year round counsel. This was never a cost in Volpe’s time. And VOLPE had productions that the audiences loved; they didn’t need to be replaced every 5 years. In the real world, Gelb would have been fired long ago.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        You either work at the Met or pay very close attention. Regardless, your observations bear repeating.

  • IntBaritone says:

    This is incorrect. You think agents have way more power than they actually do in this case. I *suppose* it is possible that the biggest stars (Kaufmann/Netrebko, but not lower than that) might be able to work something out due to perceived star power. But your stock MET singer, even managed by IMG (started to also type CAMI, helas), will be taking the pay cut. This happened years ago as well and managers were powerless. Remember when the MET also shifted per performance fees to weekly for smaller roles (most of which were for artists managed by CAMI, IMG, etc)? Managers were powerless against that as well

    Further, almost every artist singing at the MET has representation…not just the ones making $10K…

    What is correct is that this is peanuts in comparison to the bloated MET budget. Real change happens on a much grander scale. But, to imply that most of the artists will not be affected is incorrect.

  • ls says:

    Truth be told, I’m not sure that’s exactly right. In contrast to other union members at the theater, the Met soloists have seen no increase in top fees in at least a decade, which essentially means the pay scale is stuck (sure, you get a higher fee for the size of the role, fee history, etc). A 10-12 percent decrease of fees over $10,000 basically affects every somewhat prominent singer at the Met. Not only has the Met essentially convinced these union members to not push for a higher fee when they’ve not seen a penny from the Met for all their cancelled contracts this past year, but the Met’s convinced them to take significant paycuts after a year of zero income from the Met itself, with zero offers of financial compensation in the bargain.

    Perhaps this is the problem of having the same union represent choristers AND soloists…

  • Mark Atwood says:

    I just love how the AGMA Chorus just manages to give themselves a paltry 3.7% cut and then completely throws the weakest Soloists under the bus with a minimum of a 6% cut.

    AGMA has been a disaster for soloists and is actively trying to sabotage them.

  • Save the MET says:

    Picayune Gelb. He makes Schuyler Chapin look like a genius. Best fire him now, he’s useless as mammaries on a boar.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Having worked with both men, despite their differences, they were both bores (not boars…).

  • Patrick Gillot says:

    Bring back Levine !

  • Havana Brown says:

    When will that horrible man disappear from the music scene?