Metropolitan Opera Labor Dispute: Ongoing Coverage

Sunday, August 17, 2014 - 08:00 PM

Police barricades are stacked outside of the Metropolitan Opera's stage door entrance in advance of lockout deadline Sunday Police barricades are stacked outside of the Metropolitan Opera's stage door entrance in advance of lockout deadline Sunday (Brian Wise/WQXR)

Monday, Aug. 18 at 6:20 am: Contract Deals Reached

The Metropolitan Opera says it has reached contract agreements with two of its largest unions: Local 802, representing the orchestra musicians, and AGMA, representing singers, dancers and directors.

The company extended the contract deadline through midnight on Tuesday to allow Local One, representing stagehands, and the nine other remaining unions more time to negotiate. Local One told its members that planned picket lines at the Met have been cancelled for today.

The announcement came early Monday as talks between the Met and its unionized workers continued past a midnight deadline.

Full coverage.

Sunday, Aug. 17 at 9 pm: Deadline Looms

Negotiations are underway as a new deadline approaches for the Metropolitan Opera and 12 of its unions to agree on a new contract. Talks were extended by a week last Sunday, and a federal mediator has been using that time to examine the Met's books. The NYPD stationed a mobile command unit in front of Lincoln Center on Sunday in preparation for a possible picket on Monday morning. Barricades were also stashed at various places around the complex. 

Monday, Aug. 11 at 1 pm: Financial Review 'Nearing Completion'

The Federal mediator involved in the Metropolitan Opera's labor dispute said on Monday that an independent financial review of the company was "nearing its completion," and that postponed talks between the company and its unions will resume at that point.

 

The Met has now moved the contract deadline for its unionized orchestra musicians, singers, and stagehands to Sunday, Aug. 17. If a deal isn't reached by then, it plans to move ahead with a threatened lockout.

The third-party financial analysis, which was announced on August 3, was scheduled to be completed on Sunday, more than a week after contracts with the unions had expired. Eugene Keilin, of KPS Capital Partners, has been conducting the study. The Met had no further comment other than to say, "we look forward to resuming our negotiations with the unions, and hope that we can come to agreement in advance of the new deadline."

The Met's unions say they have been pressing for the Met to open its books for several months.

Met management says the opera house's costs have grown unsustainable and is seeking concessions. The unions have resisted.

5:00 pm Wednesday, Aug. 6: Met Blames Larger Debt on Declining Contributions

WNYC reports that the Met's fiscal deficit this year will be larger than the $2.8 million loss it incurred last year according to a financial disclosure document uncovered by the Wall Street Journal. This may not be surprising considering that the company is claiming the shortfall is the reason it needs to negotiate more favorable labor contracts. However, the Wall Street Journal's Jennifer Maloney told WNYC that the reasons the Met offers for its fiscal shortfall differ from a year ago when it cited lower ticket sales.

5:16 pm Sunday, Aug. 3: More Details on the Extension

Saturday evening, the Metropolitan Opera and two of its unions agreed to a one-week extension of the current contract, so that an independent analyst can conduct a study of the Met's finances. The announcement was issued by the three parties currently negotiating with a federal mediator: the Met, AGMA (representing singers and dancers) and Local 802 (representing the orchestra).

Eugene Keilin, who will conduct the study, is a co-founder of KPS Capital Partners.  In the past, he has been a partner of Lazard Freres & Co.; he also served as Chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corporation (created to deal with New York City's 1975 fiscal crisis), and of the Citizens Budget Commission.

The unions have been asking the Met for months to open its books, so that they can see whether management's proposed cuts are justified.  All contract discussions have been put on hold while the financial study is assembled, and all workers will continue on the job.

6 am Sunday, Aug. 3: One-Week Contract Extension Announced

The Met and the unions representing singers and the orchestra have agreed to a one-week extension of contracts to allow a third-party financial analyst investigate the Met's finances.


See more tweets from the ongoing labor dispute here.


5 pm Friday, Aug. 1: More Updates to Come Monday
The new deadline for a labor agreement is Sunday at 11:59 pm, following the Met's 72-hour reprieve. Meanwhile, work resumed Friday in some of the company's shops: the chorus rehearsed for a new production of The Merry Widow; stagehands held technical rehearsals for The Marriage of Figaro; still other musicians attended a costume fitting. Check back here on Monday for further updates.


11 am, Friday, Aug. 1: Local 802 Rallies at Lincoln Center
Workers from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra staged a rally in front of Lincoln Center on Friday morning, hours after the company extended its labor talks with unions by 72 hours, averting a midnight lockout threat.

Tino Gagliardi, the president of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, spoke to the crowd of about 100 workers and news media. "We are here in front of the Metropolitan Opera House this morning to say to Peter Gelb: do not lock us out," said Gagliardi, referring to the Met’s general manager.

Gagliardi went on to express his wishes that the federal mediator – who was brought into the talks late yesterday – will "yield transparency on the part of Met Management" and "require the Met to give full consideration to cost savings."

Gail Brewer, the Manhattan Borough President, and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, each voiced their support for the unions and warned against a lockout, citing its impact on businesses around Lincoln Center.

Before and after the press conference, a brass quintet played selections from Carmen, Boris Godunov and Nabucco while a dancer on stilts cavorted gingerly through the crowd.

The Met said Friday in a statement that it is hopeful that the negotiating period extension will allow for productive talks with the unions. “We want to work together with union representatives, and do everything we can to achieve new contracts, which is why we’ve agreed to an extension," said Gelb.

An average full-time orchestra member at the Met earns $200,000 in pay and $85,000 in benefits, including 16 weeks off with pay, according to an analysis by the New York Times. Citing slowing box office and reluctant donors, the Met wants to cut musicians’ compensation by roughly 17 percent through various work-rule changes. Labor costs gobble up about two-thirds of the Met's annual budget. --Brian Wise

Jessica Phillips Rieske, clarinetist in the Met Opera Orchestra speaks at the Local 802 Rally
Jessica Phillips Rieske, clarinetist in the Met Opera Orchestra speaks at the Local 802 Rally

10:55 pm, Thursday, July 31: Contract Deadline Extended by 72 Hours
The Metropolitan Opera has postponed a lockout of some 2,400 of its workers that was scheduled to go into effect at midnight Friday. The Met and the unions agreed to a federal mediator's request for a 72-hour reprieve so that talks could continue on new labor contracts.

Deals have been reached with three of the 15 unions whose contracts expired at midnight: Local 32BJ, which represents ushers, ticket takers, cleaning staff and other service workers; Local 210, which represents the call center; and Local 30, which represents building engineers.

The majority of the work force is still without a deal, however, including the unions representing singers, dancers, orchestra musicians and stagehands.

Alan Gordon, the executive director of the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), which represents the singers, directors and dancers, told WQXR late Thursday that the main sticking point is money. He characterized the 72-hour extension as a one-time reprieve. Gordon also cautioned that one of AGMA's chief negotiators will not be available after Friday's negotiation session until next Wednesday, meaning that in reality, "it’s not really possible to do this in 72 hours."

Gordon added that without the July 31 lockout, employee health coverage will now be automatically renewed for another month, regardless of events over the coming days.

Met general manager Peter Gelb said in a statement, "We want to work together with union representatives, and do everything we can to achieve new contracts, which is why we’ve agreed to an extension."

Allison Beck, a deputy director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, arrived in New York from Washington early this evening. She met with AGMA and Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, which represents the orchestra musicians. The unions have told their members to report to work in the morning. --Brian Wise


9:00 pm Thursday, July 31, Update: Mayor Bill de Blasio 'Closely Monitoring'
Silence from the bargaining table. Mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement earlier in the evening: “We have been closely monitoring the ongoing talks between the Met and its workers, and stand ready to assist however we can.”


3:30 pm Thursday, July 31, Update: City Controller Wades Into Dispute
New York City Controller Scott Stringer urges the Met to extend negotiations and avoid a lockout. "Tourism spending in New York City is an important driver of our economy, with more than $36 billion spent in 2012," he said in a statement. "The Met’s performers, stagehands, technicians, and assistants deserve a fair outcome, as do the scores of restaurants, shops and other vendors that rely on the Opera for their livelihoods. I urge the Met to extend negotiations and not lock-out its union workers."


12:55 pm Thursday, July 31, Update: Mediator Joins Talks with Met and Unions
The Unions representing the chorus and orchestra at the Metropolitan Opera have agreed to a federal mediator to help move talks along. The unions' contracts – along with those of 13 other unions – expire tonight at midnight.

The parties are to meet with Allison Beck, a representative of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. In 2011, Beck mediated the contract dispute between New York City Opera and the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), which represents singers, chorus and directors.

AGMA and Local 802, which represents the orchestra musicians, will bargain in joint talks to begin, said Alan Gordon, AGMA's executive director. Negotiations are expected to go into the evening.

Local 802 has previously said it would agree to a mediator only if the Met backed off its lockout threats and extended the current contract. In a statement, the Met said, "It’s too early for us to know if we will be able to extend the contract deadline, but the Met is willing to compromise, and if the other groups are as well, we’re confident that we can reach new agreements." -- Brian Wise

Check back here for further updates.

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Comments [42]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

Poplavskaya canceled. No wonder, the MET OPERA is like a sinking ship. Get off while other options are still possible. There will be other major desertions before the MET's scheduled deadline for the unions' capitulations. The unions it appears will not be intimidated. Management had better learn the virtue of conciliation and understanding the human concerns even beyond the artistic values.

Aug. 16 2014 08:35 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

Whatever the outcome of the MET OPERA negotiations, one thing is sure. EVENTUALLY, the cream comes to the top. Future generations realizing the loss generated by multiple causes,will band together to excavate the archeological treasures entombed in original manuscripts, vaults, piano/ vocal scores,partiturs,CDs, tapes, cassettes, DVDs, films and videocassettes.
Fads and a diversity of options besides the cultural backgrounds and financial depravations that concern many people who, by those factors, currently dismiss the masterpieces as purely elitist concerns. Time will tell and when time runs out to salvage the treasures of the past, we all will suffer. But new geniuses and causes will evolve to give significance and hedonistic pleasure. ALL the comments that I have here read are valid and historic vantage points suggest that the executive will decry the artists as ingrates even though they are the only talents evident. Moneyed interests have little regard for what is moral or artistic. States that do not have opera houses or symphony halls are unlikely to voluntarily support them elsewhere. Potential outstanding instrumentalists, singers, authors and composers will not sacrifice a normal family life wherein a guaranteed income is essential if one is a responsible parent to the whims or trends or fads of a society errant in its respect and love for the masterpieces of geniuses. We must all be activists in challenging the dogma that nothing matters but money.

Aug. 16 2014 02:02 AM

DuckDeadeye, I assume you do not have to take out a six figure loan to purchase an instrument worthy of being played in he orchestra pit at the Met. I deal in mid level classical string instruments and today even a decent violin worthy to take to an audition at an established University will cost well above $25,000. Instruments of the quality needed to perform at the Met orchestra can cost well into six figures. Many musicians are making loan payments on thier instruments that exceed the rent they pay for an apartment in New York City. Take 17% away from thier income and it will not be possible for master musicians to keep thier instruments All Gelb needs to do is keep up his payments for his botox injections to keep his arrogent smile in place

Aug. 14 2014 12:35 PM

I have followed the labor situation at the Met. I understand there is a major budget shortfall exceeding some two million dollars/ Well there is an easy fix, other than extorting wages from musicians who are dealing with a high New York cost of living and buying instruments worth many hunreds of thousands dollars
For over two years Mr. James Levine was virtually never seen at the Met while recovering from a fall and other medical issues.
Virtually all top level executives have loss of income insurance policies.
It is my understanding that rather than tap into his personal loss of income policy Mr. Levine continued to take his multi million dollar salary from Met box office and donation funds. This challenged musician who has reporterdly taken large sums of money from the Met. in past years to cover his alleged activities with young choris boys could easily have had his salary covered by a private insurance policy. If Mr. Levine truly cares about the Met, he should return that money and file a claim with his personal insurance carrier
I have a personal friend who is an electrician at the Met who has told me that it cost in excess of one hundred thousand dollars to build a rising platform for Mr. Levine to place his wheelchair in while conducting. If this seems like a large sum remember that the carpenters, electricians, designers etc are all highly paid union employees. The builders of this lift must have had to submit a building design, obtain a building permit and an approval from various building inspectors.
Met management is in crisis, HD productions are being shown in movie houses lesss tah a few miles from the Met, taking box office buyers away from high priced seats. I recall many years ago when football and baseball games were blacked out when home town teams had not sold out the various ballparks. I don't understand why the same policy could not be taken with HD productions. If the house is not sold out then black out HD transmissions within one hundred miles from the Met.
I fear that if Mr. Gelb, a novice at running an opera house is allowed to continue to produce trash like "Two Boys" better staged at a lower east side turkish bath than at the Met ticket sales will continue to fall. I am shocked to see how many open stets there are left for this seasons opening night. I recall when season opening night tickets were sold months in advance but it looks as if 20% of the house if not more is still unsold. It is time for the board of directors at the Met to wake up and show Gelb the door so he can spend more time getting botox injections to firm up his phony smile, as for Mr. Levine he sould be given a lifetime box seat, a gold watch and a straight path to a physical therapist.
Show business is a dog eat dog business and there is no reason Mr. Levine and Mr. Gelb should be retained based on the horrible ticket sales the productions they schedule

Aug. 14 2014 11:14 AM
Lee Waddington from Minneapolis

Regarding the previous "DuckDeadeye" comment from 8/3:

It's worth pointing out that the MET Orchestra's base salary is about $158k.
http://www.local802afm.org/MetMusicians/2014-07-25_802-Presentation_Gelb.pdf#page=54
The amounts quoted above that number include overtime and premiums, which are at management's discretion. Moreover, we all know NYC cost of living is very high: that current salary would equate to about $71k in Cleveland.

Second, multiple sources have mentioned "16 weeks of annual paid vacation," but that is false. The orchestra in fact receives 5 weeks of annual paid vacation. Beyond that, they receive 4 weeks of something called “Compensatory Time Off” to make up for the fact that they work 6 days a week for up to 33 weeks straight during the season. (Most Americans get 2 days off per week, and lots of other industries use CTO.) Finally, “Unutilized Weeks” are those weeks where the management chooses NOT to work the orchestra. They used to tour and play much-loved NYC Parks concerts, but management decided to end those.

Aug. 14 2014 12:06 AM
Carla from New Jersey

If you are interested in seeing *why* costs have gone up, here is a little primer in exactly where those increases have come from. One might also find the rest of the document educational as regards some of the data that lies just below the surface of this dispute. Large print, lots of graphs.

http://www.local802afm.org/MetMusicians/2014-07-25_802-Presentation_Gelb.pdf#page=74

Aug. 13 2014 08:47 PM
Will Harding from New Jersey

Thanks all for a lively comment thread. 2 things I wanted to point out here that I haven't seen mentioned yet:
1. All sides in this dispute agree that costs have grown too high, and that a $327M budget is too much. It seems the critical question is WHY? What has driven those increases? The musicians make a compelling case (http://www.local802afm.org/MetMusicians/2014-07-25_802-Presentation_Gelb.pdf#page=74) that 76% of the growth has come from Gelb's initiatives, which have failed to deliver a return on investment.

2. Many have commented on the declining box office, and pointed to problems with music education, cultural tastes, etc. These may contribute, but the Met made a serious tactical mistake by jacking ticket prices at just the wrong time. The musicians' report shows that raising ticket prices not only drives people away -- it actually decreases revenue. Recalibrating to their previously sustainable price point could do A LOT to reverse the sliding trend at the box office.

Aug. 13 2014 08:45 PM
Carla from NJ

In response to DuckDeadeye, may I mention that I took French in college, but I'm not a professional translator at the UN because I didn't choose to become highly proficient in it, becoming one of the most in demand French translators in the world. Seriously. Better analogies please.

Aug. 13 2014 08:38 PM
David from Flushing

I think Maestro Levine has done a lot over the years to raise the stature of the Met orchestra. However, being of his generation, I feel there is also a time to retire. He obviously loves his work and wants to continue, but there is no need to drop dead on the podium. "The cemeteries are full of indispensable men."

The HD performances are often accused of draining off the audience at Lincoln Center. Locally, I find that the HD audience is very elderly with canes, wheelchairs, and walkers in evidence. I am not certain these people could make the trip into Manhattan. I am often the "baby" of the audience.

There are many worthy causes that a billionaire could support. Medical needs would likely be classed as more important than opera. Then there is the question of how many billionaires like opera. Being reliant on a few persons to keep the place running is not the most reliable basis for long term survival. Government funding of the arts has always been controversial in this country. People object to naked ancient Greek statues in museums and all sorts of things, especially when they seem "elitist".

Aug. 13 2014 11:27 AM
Violindealer from Forest Hills, N.Y.

I have seen quite a bit written about the pay scale for musicians at The Met. Aside from New York City having a high cost of living let us not forget the investment the average Met. musician must make in his/her instrument. \ String instruments worthy of a Met Opera class musician come with a price tag equal to that of a mortgage on a Manhattan condo. The interest alone on these instruments can be enormous along with the insurance.
It might pay to examine the millions paid to James Levine while he did not step foot in the Met for several years while recovering from his fall. I am quite sure that a man of Mr. Levines means has a lavish insurance policy covering his medical and lost income. It is a shame that Mr. Levine had to raid the shrinking Met box office for his salary for nearly two years of doing virtually nothing for the Met. Then there is the several hundred thousand dollars the Met spent for a rising platform to accomodate Mr. Levine's whelchair. It is estimated that with building permits, electrical costs and other building costs this item could have covered the salary of at least one Met musician.
It is time that Mr. Levine and Mr. Gelb take leave and put the Met in the hand of managers who understand and treausre the traditional opera offerings and stop experimenting with off beat gay oriented trash productions better suited for small expermental venues
Then there is the matter of the HD performances, they are playing in venues just a few subway stops from the Met and are taking patrons from traditional box office seats into cheap lysol smelling movie houses.
I can understand transmitting productions through Europe and in distant cities. I recall when baseball and football would black out tv coverage in local markets unless the stadiums were sold out. This should be the case with the HD productions. I fear that if things continue my grand children may not have the chance to attend the beautiful clasical productions the Met is known for.
The best thing for the Met is to lock out Levine and Gelb and look towards talented traditional management to bring the Met back to what is was before it is too late.

Aug. 12 2014 10:22 AM

If Peter Gelb is so well-connected, why can't he come up with sufficient donations to cover the Met's modest deficits? NYC is said to be home to 43 billionaires, the third most of any city in the world after London and Moscow. A deficit of $2.8 million shouldn't be so big a problem that its unionized working class should be expected to cover for the failures of Met management. But that's the way it often goes in countries where the plutocracy is king. Bring on Andrea Chenier!

Aug. 12 2014 12:57 AM

@ Les: Spot on.
DD~~

Aug. 10 2014 05:15 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

I see lack of contributions as something emblematic of a larger cultural attitude that, regardless of intent, lessens if not erases North America's connection to and overall cultural inheritance from Europe. I think revisionist historians and social planners who proclaim that Washington and Jefferson aren't relevant and whose historical importance shouldn't be taught because they were slaveholders makes as much sense as saying that Shakespeare shouldn't be taught, read and performed because he was part of a society in which public hangings were popular entertainment. So by extension, those "dead white men" and their historical contributions are irrelevant today, in whose popular culture nothing or no one of importance lasts longer than a week or two. The media stoop to cater to those whose attention spans are little longer than a fly's and to those to whom concentration is anathema, witness mindless background "music" to everything from commercials to political ads, to say nothing about "accompaniments" to reality t.v. shows. My comments apply to our legacy of literature, painting and philosophy, but I'm primarily interested in music. Let there be multiculturalism, but let the truth of history be taught primarily. Then maybe people will want to support the Metropolitan Opera Association and orchestras because they've availed themselves of the treasures that those "dead men" have left to us all by learning (or trying to learn) an instrument, or sing, or going on YouTube and listening to works both heard about and unknown. If only we take some time and effort and let them sing to us. Pun intended.

Aug. 10 2014 09:40 AM
Arden Anderson-Broecking from Connecticut

The answer to why the deficit is high and contributions low??? Very simple.
Ridiculous "concept" productions, (Tosca, Parsifal, Faust, just to name a few) smart-aleck "directors" who throw the composer's intent under the bus, the trashing of truly beautiful productions. Disrespect for the hard work of everyone at the Met. People are putting away their checkbooks! Please,
Mr.Gelb, reform or resign.

Aug. 10 2014 08:06 AM
Concetta nardone from Nassau

KBL: Thanks.
Best wishes

Aug. 09 2014 06:42 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

CONCETTA, I MEANT WHAT I WROTE AS A COMPLIMENT TO YOU. YOU ARE A TREASURE !!!

Aug. 09 2014 04:02 PM
Concetta nardone from Nassau

KBL: Me, cute? Surely you jest. I've been called many things, but cute--never. Someone remarked that I reminded him of a woman that when people saw her passing by, they would make the Sign of the Cross. He did write that he meant that in jest. I took that as a complement.

Aug. 09 2014 02:45 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

CONCETTA NARDONE, we know that you're not a teenager, but you sure are cute to remind some of us where our "Culture" now gravitates to. I have sung in Europe and love their perspectives on many issues. DENARO IS THERE, AS HERE, WHAT "KULTUR" REALLY MEANS !!!

Aug. 09 2014 11:57 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

We are not dumbing down. Our youth watch the Kardashians, cultural icons and Honey Boo Boo.

Aug. 09 2014 11:26 AM
David from Flushing

I found an interesting statistical website for opera. There are six times as many opera performances in Germany than in the US.

http://operabase.com/top.cgi?lang=en

Aug. 09 2014 09:47 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, L:ake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

Arbitration may be the answer currently to the enigma that surrounds the heated arguments on all sides. But when the entrenched idealogues feel threatened they become even more obstinate and les likely to agree to a practical solution. MONEY more than culture will determine the survival of any art form in the good old USA. Like Germany in the 1930s the top minds in all fields deserted their homeland and sought refuge in less demonic surroundings. If the USA is dumbing down, one may expect the same to occur here in time.

Aug. 08 2014 05:04 PM
Floria from NYC

Most definitely, John H. from Avon Ct. That's just the start of the problem. Children are not exposed to classical music....and when they start to mature they do not have a choice in their music. They do what everyone else does. (Sports: children are constantly exposed to sports.) The school system does not always have music - chorus, band/orchestra. (Sports: every school has a sports program). The community doesn't support classical music - with venues and programming. (Sports: almost every community sports an arena or two for sports events and, to beat the band,tax payers pay for the arena...!!). Sports prevail because they start early. And it leads to private owners owning sports teams and television contracts.

Aug. 07 2014 11:46 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, Nj from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

ALL the comments that I have here read are valid and historic vantage points suggest that the executive will decry the artists as ingrates even though they are the only talents evident. Moneyed interests have little regard for what is moral or artistic. States that do not have opera houses or symphony halls are unlikely to voluntarily support them elsewhere. Potential outstanding instrumentalists, singers, authors and composers will not sacrifice a normal family life wherein a guaranteed income is essential if one is a responsible parent to the whims or trends or fads of a society errant in its respect and love for the masterpieces of geniuses. We must all be activists in challenging the dogma that nothing matters but money.

Aug. 06 2014 07:37 PM
David from Flushing

I am certainly not aware of what was going on in all the many public school systems in the US at the time, but I had a comprehensive music education in 7th and 8th grade in the early 1960s. We went through the history of Western Music with the major periods and the studied the instruments of the orchestra. There was music notation and singing to sheet music. One task was to compose a tune for lyrics provided by the teacher. In grades 3 and 4, we had to play the transverse "melody flutes" that we affectionately called "sewer pipes."

Yet by the time I was a high school senior, the number of students interested in classical music in a solidly middle class suburb was a very small percentage. One might expect that those who were more intellectual and went to college would have a greater appreciation, but that was not the case. There has been a change in culture and classical music is no longer a significant aspect of it. Too often we hear, If only people were exposed to it, they would like classical music." There is little evidence for this, especially with malls and terminals using classical music to shoo away pesky teens.

Aug. 06 2014 01:31 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Art appreciation education in the schools would help somewhat. When I was in school, there was no such thing. The popular culture was better than it is now. Not only was I lucky enough to listen to American radio, but also Italian radio. NBC was once owned by the Sarnoff family. They gave us the NBC Symphony conducted by Toscanini, NBC Opera. I believe Amahl and the Night Visitors premiered on NBC TV. Look at what is being offered by NBC now, Chris Matthews screaming, Real Housewives, a whole bunch of lefty commentators who think they know everything, etc. etc. Fox has a bunch of extremists giving us their learned opinions, etc. etc. TV is now being watched by too many youngsters, for too long a time every day. Very little of what is beautiful and ennobling is being offered today. I do not mean to be preachy.

Aug. 06 2014 10:55 AM
John H. from Avon, CT

Watering down performances and performing "rock operas" is unlikely to reverse the trend in declining attendance. Attendance is not a symptom, it is an outcome. The problem originates from the decline in music arts education in our schools. Arts now competes with sports, and the clear emphasis in our schools is on sports. For a middle income family, the best chance for a college scholarship is a sports scholarship. Numbers don't lie. One doesn't have to major in sports to get a sports scholarship. We reap what we sow.

In most colleges, music scholarships are reserved exclusively for music majors. (Davidson is one exception where there are some modest scholarships for non-music majors.). How about some benefactors focusing on creating some meaningful music scholarships for non-music majors? Create music scholarships that look like sports scholarships and see the changes in school and parental behavior that occur.

Secondly, unless each and every one of us demand more from our K-12 schools in fostering arts (and that includes demanding that after school activities don't put music at the bottom of priorities) we will continue to see the decline of the arts.

Aug. 06 2014 09:28 AM
David from Flushing

I suspect the Met board is at a loss over what to do about declining tickets sales that are now only 80% of capacity. Attempting to attract the younger generation is obviously the only route to long term survival given the present demographic crisis. The question is how can this be done? Popular films such as the "Lord of the Rings" series run longer without intermissions than many operas. This suggests that shortening works may not be the answer. Rock concerts may have smoke and fireworks, but lack the scenery and visual interest offered by opera. The sad reality is that the problem with opera is the music itself. Unless the Met offers rock operas, it has little chance of appealing to any but the pre-boomer generation that is vanishing.

Aug. 05 2014 04:36 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Recent productions of the Met had Un Ballo in Maschera looking like a school cafeteria, Tosca with porn in the second act. Lady Macbeth walking on chairs, Ring cycle on ramps, I thought Lokke and Freia were going to slide down and land in the pit. Hey, that would have been funny. Lokke had these flashlights as he was sliding down the ramp. Trashy Traviata but I did like the Rigoletto set in Vegas. I thought it was a hoot. But people will not pay that kind of money to see this trash. Of course, Gelb gave himself a nice pay raise. And of course the old folks with money are dying.

Aug. 05 2014 10:06 AM
Carol from NYC

Gelb and the met board of trustees have sold us out, we the opera-loving fans who pay dearly for tickets, CD's, DVD's, ....in favor of trying to "recruit" the young. The young have their venue....how about doing a rock concert in perhaps a library setting, or a field of flowers, or in an apartment setting... to "appeal to the old folks"....hey, what about that? Mick Jagger swagging around in a dining room - why not? Rock concerts need more gray-haired folks. What about it?

Aug. 04 2014 01:56 PM
Frank from Pennsylvania

I recall that when Chrysler had financial woes in the early 1980s, Lee Iacocca asked for concessions from the UAW. Also, he did not take a salary for himself. By introducing products that the public actually wanted, sales increased, and gov't loans were paid back seven years early. I have a copy of Iacocca's book, "Talking Straight", if Mr. Gelb would like to peruse it. Cars, The Arts -- the basic business principles are the same.

Aug. 04 2014 10:38 AM
Rosanna from NYC

I would like to assure Joann from NYC that I'm not a Met staffer. My gripe against Gelb stems from multiple ugly new and COSTLY productions during his regime that even respected arts critics generally panned for "cheap eroticism", etc. Then there arose the issues of his taking a hefty salary increase while deposing Joseph Volpe as union contract negotiator, hiring Proskauer Rose (known for anti-unionism) to replace Volpe, and, more recently, announcing a date for lockout of Met employees. These actions indicate unbridled arrogance let alone cultural insensitivity ... I'm just glad that the film "Wagner's Dream" showed an irate Hans-Peter Konig taking Gelb to task for unexpected shifting of the "Ring" boards while he was singing! NO to lockouts; negotiate NOW!

Aug. 03 2014 05:26 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Loss of foundation money because of the bad productions, gelb gives himself a pay raise. But do not agree that the aids epidemic had that large an impact. As for opera being lost to us in the future, thank God for DVDs of opera productions. The degrading of the culture has not helped. Kardashian, honey boo boo, searching for bigfoot, real housewives. This is the popular culture, rap music, etc.

Aug. 03 2014 10:03 AM

p.s. I'm not begrudging the musicians' not wanting a salary cut. I'm just saying that a salary cut at $200,000/yr might have less effect for them than a 17% cut in my salary (which is FAR lower than $200,000/yr). DD~~

Which is also why I was wondering/concerned whether negotiations were across the board or union by union. DD~~

Aug. 03 2014 04:44 AM

"An average full-time orchestra member at the Met earns $200,000 in pay and $85,000 in benefits, including 16 weeks off with pay, according to an analysis by the New York Times. Citing slowing box office and reluctant donors, the Met wants to cut musicians’ compensation by roughly 17 percent through various work-rule changes. Labor costs gobble up about two-thirds of the Met's annual budget."

Hmmm, I studied music in college. I don't make $200,000 a year. I don't have 16 weeks off with pay. (And I'd be very surprised if these musicians weren't making more money in part of those 16 weeks.)

Just sayin' DD~~

Aug. 03 2014 04:28 AM
Robert Quiles from Hudson River

The sad reality of today is that many classical arts performing groups are under very heavy pressure due to the shrinking audience, high cost, and the dying out of the white head audience. There been a graying out of the patrons of live performances and there has been a trend of listening of music by the youth on YouTube and other electronic media. The little remaining funds for live performance are being consumed by the big time organizations in Europe and the USA. I've heard from many friends in not too major orchestra that their season has been cut back. How they are competing with the Met productions shown in the Movie Theater and YouTube. You can see Bernstein, Ormandy, and other great conductors on YouTube for free. It's very though times for everyone. Most musicians in the Met Opera Orchestra must have to admit how lucky they have had it and remember not to kill the golden goose. If that happens we'll all be seeing opera on YouTube in the future.

Aug. 02 2014 10:18 PM
David from Flushing

Many years ago, I recall James Levine saying something about how opera could be lost in our generation. This seemed startling to many of us and perhaps not taken seriously, but in retrospect, he was prescient. Probably the first blow to opera was the AIDS epidemic and the loss of a loyal segment of the audience. The second blow took some years to come, but it is now upon us. The Beatles generation never got into classical music and the bulk of the opera audience is pre-Boomer. The latest figures I encountered state that 60% of the Met's audience is over 65 and 30% over 75. Then there are the seats that cannot be sold---something unthinkable in the 1970s. The demise of the NYCO struck home the fact that familiar institutions may not go on forever.

Aug. 02 2014 08:29 PM
Robert Quiles from Hudson River

The sad reality of today is that many classical arts performing groups are under very heavy pressure due to the shrinking audience, high cost, and the dying out of the white head audience. There been a graying out of the patrons of live performances and there has been a trend of listening of music by the youth on YouTube and other electronic media. The little remaining funds for live performance are being consumed by the big time organizations in Europe and the USA. I've heard from many friends in not too major orchestra that their season has been cut back. How they are competing with the Met productions shown in the Movie Theater and YouTube. You can see Bernstein, Ormandy, and other great conductors on YouTube for free. It's very though times for everyone. Most musicians in the Met Opera Orchestra must have to admit how lucky they have had it and remember not to kill the golden goose. If that happens we'll all be seeing opera on YouTube in the future.

Aug. 02 2014 07:14 PM
Karen Dale from New York

All the more reason that the arts should be government
Subsidized as they are in Europe. Why should culture
In America also be owned by the 1 percent- the billionaires
Who make up the Board of Trustees, and to whose tune Gelb
marches?

Jul. 31 2014 06:31 PM
Richard D. Lawson from CT

How is it that several million dollars can be spent on only ONE PRODUCTION; and then the Metropolitan Opera Co. can cry poor? It seems to me that the tail (Gelb) is wagging the dog! Locking out the entire company is a wrong headed and foolish stance for Gelb to take. Get real, Gelb!

Jul. 31 2014 04:21 PM
john f bicknell from ann arbor , michigan

Being a musician myself i am standing with the orchestra,singers, and crew of the opera. If severe overtime has happened because of new works, then you should schedule fewer new productions and play the operas that will fill the house. No body should be expected to work overtime for free, it just isn't right.I am dismayed to hear that Mr. Gelb has given himself a raise. Now if your company is in financial problems you should know that first and forgo your raise until times get better. Things will eventually get better, but you have to respect the musicians that you have at the Met. They are some of the best musicians in the USA.

Jul. 31 2014 04:17 PM
joann from NYC

I have a very strong suspicion that comments, such as that of S. Rosenthal, are being posted by Met union member employees who are "SO angry" at Peter Gelb that they can't see straight. The right to choose or fire the General Manager is not in their contract. Their union reps are not going to lose either way but everyone else will.

Jul. 31 2014 04:10 PM
Susan Rosenthal

I'm SO angry at Peter Gelb that I feel like cancelling my subscription
How disrespectful to the orchestra!!!
Wasn't it enough that the City Opera closed?
Perhaps we should tell the next generation to give up on classical music. They work so hard, become superb artists, and then this is how they are treated.

Jul. 31 2014 02:15 PM

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