Just In From the Musicians Union: Met Orchestra Musicians Blame Peter Gelb; Detail Plan to Save $20M
Just In From the Musicians Union:
"Local 802, American Federation of Musicians, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra musicians today have commenced negotiations with Met Opera management including General Manager Peter Gelb. The union and the musicians released the attached report detailing the failed management and flawed artistic vision of Gelb during his 8-year tenure at the helm of the Met. The report analyzes the dismal reception of Gelb's expensive new productions by opera critics and patrons and also recommends specific strategies the Met could employ to save $20 Million annually by curtailing Gelb's lavish spending and realizing scheduling efficiencies.
Gelb has stated in the press that the Met is facing financial ruin and possible bankruptcy, while refusing to provide the musicians, the media or the public any evidence of such a crisis. He has announced that he must impose draconian cuts of over $30 Million, yet has refused to substantiate/document the reasons. No one yet knows why Gelb is asking for over $30 Million in cuts when his reported deficit is only $2.8 Million in the context of a $327 million annual budget.
What is known, however, is that under Gelb the Met's labor costs have remained flat, while the Met Opera budget has increased by nearly 50% ($105 Million). This is in large part due to Gelb's overspending on critically panned, unpopular productions, as well as poor scheduling, inferior marketing and extensive management waste. The musicians are in favor or new and artistically daring productions but want to see them managed expertly, whereby the Met is able to achieve artistic success while living within their budget.
Even if-after an objective analysis-the Met can be said to be facing some degree of financial challenge, it is clear what the solution isn't. It isn't slashing the compensation of the world-class performers and other craftspeople on whom the Met's excellence and success relies. If Gelb's cuts were implemented it would be impossible for the Met to recruit and retain the best musicians in the world who today comprise the company. The quality of the Opera would rapidly deteriorate, and Gelb will have succeeded in further decimating the audience that already has been diminished by his failed productions.
The musicians had hoped to purse good-faith negotiations with opera management. Unfortunately, Gelb has pursued a cynical strategy calculated to result in a lockout of his artists and craftspeople and imperil the upcoming Met Opera season. For months, Gelb has purposely refused to provide essential financial information that would have allowed substantive, good-faith negotiations to proceed, instead making erroneous claims in the press in the run-up to his long-planned lockout. His callousness, combined with his attempt to cover up his failed management and lack of artistic vision that has resulted in declining audiences and plummeting ticket sales, jeopardizes the livelihoods of his employees and the many businesses in New York City's cultural sector and the Lincoln Center area that depend on the Metropolitan Opera for their incomes.
The loss to the City's economy as a result of a lockout will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars - first, the $327 million that the Met spends on salaries, sets, costumes and on many other vendors/services will be lost; on top of that, the losses to restaurants and hotels, especially those in the immediate vicinity of Lincoln Center, will be devastating given that the Met has 3,800 seats and its audience represents a high proportion of local restaurant and hotel patronage during the opera season.
The musicians believe the Met's problems are solvable without a lockout and a cancelled season, which will be a major blow to New York City culture and disastrous for Opera's financial health. They wish the Met to remain an engine of the cultural and tourism economy-and continue to thrill both the Met Opera's loyal audience and the young people and non-traditional audiences who will carry this great art form into its next generation.