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BWW Exclusive: Peter Gelb Honored At NISS Dinner


Peter Gelb, General Manager of The Metropolitan Opera, was honored at the National Institute of Social Science's 105th Gold Medal Dinner along with Partners in Health co-founder Paul Edward Farmer. One of the nation's oldest honorary societies, the NISS presents Gold Medals to men and women whose lives have manifested the highest achievements and have made significant contribution to society and humanity.

Frederick L. Larsen, NISS president, in his opening remarks, said, "In order to achieve wonderful things in art, science, or society we need to pair discipline with virtue." The Knickerbocker Greys (students in an after-school program hosted at the 7th Regiment Armory) marched the flag to the front of the room and led the Pledge of Allegiance. Jeff Klitz and the Brooklyn Harmonics sang "The Star Spangled Banner" followed by NISS Trustee, Angela Cason, and the Chairman of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, Win Rutherford, leading "God Bless America."

Anthony Roth Costanza, star of The Met Opera's new Akhnaten, and Angel Blue, star of their Porgy and Bess, both lavished praise on the Met's general manager, Peter Gelb. "Peter Gelb is the kind of general manager who has and will continue to take the opera to the next level", said Angel Blue, "He is the support who artists can rely on to believe in their talent and provide them with a fantastic workplace." Anthony Roth Costanzo added, "It's an honor for me to celebrate Peter Gelb and to introduce a new friend, a great star who is part of this historic achievement at the Met and continues to expand the ways opera can create community on an off stage."

"I'm honored to be here and I have to admit that it's also a relief not to be on diva and divo duty for an evening, although my colleagues at the opera house will certainly know where to find me if something goes awry," said Gelb. "When I signed my contract back in 2004 to become the 16th General Manager in the long and illustrious history of the Met, it included a clause (and still does) that I have to be available 24/7, since you never know what might happen in the daily and nightly events of the world's busiest, and sometimes wackiest, performing arts company."

In accepting his medal Peter Gelb spoke with great wit of the trials of running the nation's largest classical music organization where his contract requires him to be "on call 24/7": "In any event, while I'm having my brief respite here, I'm temporarily free from what I worry about during the course of a season that runs from September to May: hypochondriac singers cancelling while afflicted with phantom illnesses, the ever present danger of snow cancellations as the governor and mayor fight to see who can shut the city down first when a few snowflakes begin to fall, misguided individuals who think the orchestra pit is where they should deposit the ashes of their loved ones, never ending union negotiations (the Met has fifteen unions), the decline of coverage in the mainstream media, cranky music critics, some crankier older audience members who believe nothing good has happened on the stage of the Met since Zeffirelli; and the decades long absence of arts education in schools, making it more challenging than ever to attract new audiences - to mention just a few of my concerns".

Recalling his "strong willed predecessor, Joe Volpe, and a certain Romanian diva who refused to wear a blond wig for the role of Micaëla in Carmen. Volpe told her, 'The wig is going on, with or without you.'" Gelb also quoted his early mentor, Sol Hurok, who said, 'If the people don't want to come you can't stop them'"; plus an aphorism attributed to Winston Churchill, "the only endeavor more complicated than grand opera is war', as well as citing The Met's successes including global transmission of their operas to 73 countries, including every continent except Antarctica and with subtitles in eight languages. More than 28 million people have seen the Met Opera in movie theaters so far.

Angela Cason and Roderick Hickey III, Michele and James Jeffery, Michelle and Fred Larsen chaired the Gold Medal Dinner Committee. Guests included NISS Trustees Beth Corman, Jamie Curtis, Joan Davidson, Susan Gitelson, Elbrun Kimmelman, as well as her husband, Peter, Joshua Graham Lynn, Ron Meyers, Madelaine and Jonathan Piel, Peter Samton, Catherine Shraga, Gracey Stoddard, John Temple Swing, Barbara Tober as well as her husband, Donald, and William Told. Guests also included Yanna Avis, Cece and Lee Black, Beatrice Broadwater, Tai Heng Cheng and Cole Harrell, Joanna Fisher, Boo Grace, Susan Gutfreund, Urban Karlson and Juan Montoya, DeAnnie and Adam Reeder, and Sana Sabbagh.

The mission of the National Institute of Social Sciences (NISS) is to promote the study of social sciences, to support social science research, and discussion, and to honor individuals who have renewed distinguished service to humanity. In addition to its grant program and undergraduate scholarships the NISS plans education events and conversations on important issues. For more information see

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