Just in: The Met strikes a deal with its orchestra

Just in: The Met strikes a deal with its orchestra


norman lebrecht

August 24, 2021

Agreement was reached today, but the Met says ‘the economic details of the new deal with the orchestra are not being provided’, so it’s all smoke, mirrors and face-saving for the moment.

The Met had been demanding a 30 percent pay cut. It didn’t get one. Three to four percent is more likely, we hear.

The musicians wanted compensation for a year without pay, also unlikely. It remains to be seen how many turn up for work next Monday.

Here’s the heavily-spun line from the Gelb machine.

New York, NY (August 24, 2021)—A new collective bargaining agreement between the Metropolitan Opera and its orchestra, the last of the Met’s three largest unions to reach an agreement, was ratified today. To commemorate the occasion, the Met has announced two free, pre-season performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection,” to take place in Damrosch Park at 8:00pm ET on Saturday, September 4, and Sunday, September 5. Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin will conduct the Met Orchestra and Chorus, joined by soloists soprano Ying Fang and mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves.

While the economic details of the new deal with the orchestra are not being provided, there is now a clearer path to the opening of the Met’s 2021–22 season on September 27 with the scheduled Met premiere of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, which will be the first opera to appear on the Met’s stage in eighteen months. One part of the new agreement with the orchestra calls for the creation of an annual chamber music series of six concerts at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, also beginning this fall, with corresponding performances as part of Carnegie’s Citywide program of free concerts. The new series is an initiative of Mr. Nézet-Séguin, who was inspired by the orchestra’s entrepreneurial efforts during the long shutdown.

“The members of the Met’s great orchestra have been through Herculean challenges during the sixteen months of the shutdown, as we struggled to keep the company intact,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s General Manager. “Now, we look forward to rebuilding and returning to action.”

“The pandemic has caused pain and suffering for so many people, and in ways that will remain forever. And while we as musicians cannot make that pain go away, our art form is special in that it can provide moments of healing and catharsis to a spirit in need,” said Mr. Nézet-Séguin. “To be able to perform Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony as the first performances back together with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus is not just a moment of revival for us, but a gift of hope and rebirth to New York City.”

The two Mahler performances are being made possible by generous donations from Met board members Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer and Ann Ziff for the members of the orchestra in honor of Mr. Nézet-Séguin, who had urged support for the orchestra during the period when they were unpaid. Mr. Nézet-Séguin holds the title of Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer Music Director.

Both concerts are free and open to the public, with approximately 2,500 seats set up next to the Metropolitan Opera House in Damrosch Park. General-admission seating will open ten minutes before each presentation on a first-come-first-served basis.



  • Nel says:

    In Honor of Yannick? What?
    How about in honor of the musicians?

    • Bill says:

      You pay for a performance and you can have it in honor of your choice, within reason. See also (s)he who has the gold makes the rules.

      • L. Worner says:

        Thank goodness for white people (Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer and Ann Ziff) with money!!!!!!

        The Met would have shut down long ago had it relied on ‘diversity’. No other races make such immense, positive financial impacts at the Met even today.

        Hopefully the Met’s Chief Diversity Officer, Ms. Marcia Sells will make the critical decision to either ACCEPT or DENY the funds as they are highly problematic by being “white only”. Enabling systemic racism by accepting anything fully white would clearly admit culpability by the Met.

        • Amir E. says:

          Sells is merely a token black. She’s not capable of making decisions of that magnitude. It’s not her place.

  • Meanwhile, here in Germany, almost all the musicians in the country’s 129 orchestras and 83 opera houses received full pay or close to it during the entire pandemic. If there were reductions, it was still 95% pay for the lower paid orchestras and 90% for the higher paid. And 100% for the lowest paid positions.

    The same agreement applied to choruses, dancers, actors, dramaturges, stage managers, and most stage workers.

    It’s also worth noting that while Germany has 83 year-round opera houses, the USA has 0. Even the Met only has a seven month season. The Met is the only opera house in the USA that pays a full time salary while Germany has 83. Our next two largest companies, Chicago and San Francisco only have half year seasons. From there the drop off is extreme for all other houses.

    • justin says:

      When you don’t have to pay for Afghanistan, and fair share of NATO, and support Israel, and protect South Korea, protect the Eastern European borders to stop Russia from rolling its tanks into Germany, and fund NASA to explore the Universe for all of humanity, yeah, you do wind up with a lot of pocket money to spend on things like opera houses.

      • Tamino says:

        You are totally wrong of why all that is done.
        It‘s done for moneyed interest. For the plutocracy. Most of them residing in the US.
        Do you think what happens in Afghanistan now would happen that way, would happen, if it was about the people there?
        Wake up to reality. Follow the money and power trail. And bring your brain from 70 years ago to now.

      • Russian says:

        Bro you’re ridiculous. Even if NATO didn’t exist, Russia would never roll its tanks anywhere in Europe. You know why? Because first of all Russia doesn’t need to/isn’t interested in that, unlike what west Serb propaganda claims to keep its population in fear, but also because of something called NUKES. Ever heard of those? Deluded Americans, the xenophobia in our times is crazy…
        Russia is a good boogeyman, and the best excuse to further America’s goals of military world domination. Although the new boogeyman is China now! So I guess NATO should be rebranded huh

      • Russian says:

        Sorry typo, I meant to say western propaganda

      • Tom Phillips says:

        “We” certainly don’t HAVE to be a imperialist power maintaining unjust political, economic, and social arrangements worldwide – the U.S. governing elites have invariably CHOSEN to – to the immense detriment of this and other nations.

    • musician says:

      Congrats to Germany and your unblemished history.

    • Bill says:

      While SF Opera may not have a full-year schedule, the pay is pretty decent for a job that leaves you with half a year free to do whatever you want! When a friend auditioned a few years ago, the basic pay was over $90,000. SF Symphony was $140,000 for a full-time season, but you had to work several months more. There are a lot of people who would be excited to make that much for a full year of work!

    • fflambeau says:

      Dear Mr. William Osborne, you are cherry picking data. S.F. Opera House seats almost double what the Deutsche Opera House does in Berlin.

      I very much doubt there are 83 year round (how many operas do they present? is a better stat) opera houses in Germany.

      • Tamino says:

        SF opera has 3,700 seats in the audience? Really? Are they amplifying sound electrically?

      • JB says:

        According to operabase, for the 2018/2019 season, there were 8765 performances of 1278 opera productions in Germany vs. 1924 performances of 484 productions in the US.

      • You can look at it another way. Nearly half of all opera performances in the world take place in Germany. The stats are available on Operabase.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      What is one to expect when government (NEA) subsidies for opera range from negligible to zero? Even Gilded-Age wealth inequality isn’t sufficient to support a plethora of year-round opera houses.

  • Rawdeal254 says:

    Finally the public, musicians and industry might finally see what a terrible deal the New York philharmonic got as a result of total lack of courage and skill from the committee chair and legal team.
    Bravo to the met musicians for make a stand.

    • sam says:

      The NY Phil paid its musicians throughout the pandemic while it was closed.

      Gain some here, lose some there.

      • Metbone says:


        True but….

        The met has been getting paid around the same amount as the NYP weekly base since around March.
        With the horrid deal some musicians are getting close to a 50 percent pay cut over almost 4 years and it’s not returning ever to previous levels in the life of this contract.

        If you add everything up over the life of the contract you will see the met comes out better and most importantly is not in some huge hole the next time they go to the table.

        Keep in mind also when the met was not getting paid they were able to take advantage of the extra 600 in unemployment during that first year.

        If you add this in as well it’s hard to keep using the excuse that they were paid for one year when the met was not as the defining reasons for a horrible contract.

        Make no mistake, NYP got one of the worst deals in the country with little to no reason for it other than weak negotiation.

    • NYMike says:

      I’m guessing you’re one of the younger Phil members who was disgruntled enough to vote out valuable orch comm members.

      • JP says:

        Those are the people who fight and end with a 3.7 percent pay cut from someone like Gelb not those who refuse to fight and take 25 percent of base and astronomical cuts to over scale while building a 500 million dollar hall.

  • Kenny says:

    “The new series is an initiative of Mr. N-S,” eh? What happened from 1998-2016, then? The victors write the history? Appalling. Can’t wait to read the programs.

  • BRUCEB says:

    From the NY Times article:

    The four-year deal with the musicians institutes pay cuts of 3.7 percent, with provisions to begin restoring some of that pay after the Met’s box office revenues return to 90 percent of their prepandemic levels, according to a copy of the memorandum of understanding that was obtained by The New York Times and confirmed by participants.

    A significant amount of the savings in the deal appears to come from reducing the minimum size of the Met’s full-time orchestra to 83 players through attrition, according to the memorandum, down from its current minimum of 90. Many players retired during the pandemic; by not filling all those positions, the Met will save money and rely more on extra players.


    • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

      Seems like a better business model if you ask me.

      In NYC, the MET can find great musicians to fill in when the score requires it. Why carry all the extra payroll especially when one does Baroque or Classical works that don’t require large brass sections.

      With the savings, give the remaining orchestra members a decent salary and keep the perks they receive in terms of paid time off, seniority pay, and rotation to keep them healthy.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        Eventually it will become a fully pick-up orchestra. That’s what happened when the Met dismantled it’s ballet troupe.

        The trouble is, valuable rehearsal time is lost when repertory works have to be rehearsed longer to accommodate subs.

      • BRUCEB says:

        Financially that makes sense.

        Artistically, that waste of money is what has kept the Met orchestra one of the world’s great ensembles rather than just another “very good opera orchestra.” People who say you can’t tell the difference… can’t tell the difference.

        But… financially it makes sense. :-/

  • fcg says:

    “so it’s all smoke, mirrors and face-saving for the moment,” says the guy who a week ago said there wasn’t an imminent agreement when the September 11 concert was announced.

    As was the case then, nobody owes NL any information. But complain about that which you know nothing to feign relevance!

    Anyone with half a brain knew, when they announced that concert, that the union leadership had approved a deal and all that was left was for the union membership to vote on it. Seriously, you didn’t understand that from the announcement?

  • Save the MET says:

    Oh boy, let’s start out of the gate, 2 large works with a huge orchestra – chorus and an ever growing pandemic in the City and State! I suspect the health department will end up shutting the Metropolitan Opera shortly after these two events if they are allowed to happen. Of course the fine print on your ticket will be, come at your own risk. By the way, I’m being slightly facetious, but the handwriting is on the wall.

    • JoshW says:

      Absolutely correct. This and that disasterous super-spreader in Central Park last weekend will all be to the everlasting regret of smug New Yorkers.

    • Stephen Owades says:

      You did see that these performances will be outdoors in Damrosch Park, an outdoor space adjacent to the Metropolitan Opera House with a shallow bandshell. Nobody will be inside the Met, so (a) it should be fairly safe and (b) nothing should cause a “shutdown” of the Met itself.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    “..in honor of Mr. Nézet-Séguin, who had urged support for the orchestra during the period when they were unpaid.” Hold your horses! We saw his inaction in real time. Please don’t re-write history.

  • fflambeau says:

    Actually, Gelb and Co. have done a lot through the Covid period including free online concerts. I have been impressed.

  • Yannick Student says:

    Yannick cancels his Lucerne concerts, citing “injury”….then, just a couple days later, the MET announces these pre-season performances that just happen to coincide around the same time Yannick was to have conducted in Lucerne. Of course Yannick should conduct the MET orchestra in Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, but he agreed to his Lucerne gig over a year ago. FRAUD.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Fraud? We used to call it “honor”. But, then, we are talking about the Met.

      • Yannick Student says:

        I meant “Fraud” as in claiming to be “injured” yet conducting a gig elsewhere….but you’re right…this is the MET we are talking about…