Cher Public

The pit and the pendulum

“The award-winning MET Orchestra’s global reputation as a top-tier ensemble is critical to New York City’s tourism and cultural economy,” begins a statement by, you guessed it, the Met Orchestra and AFM Local 802. They proceed to present their case that the company is mismanaged under Peter Gelb, and La Cieca will leave it as an exercise for the reader to interpret the statistics and charts they produce. [Report (PDF)]

  • Satisfied

    “The award-winning MET Orchestra’s global reputation as a top-tier ensemble is critical to New York City’s tourism and cultural economy,”

    Perhaps among my top 5 orchestras… But, ya no.

    This statement is so utterly oblivious! New York is not Amsterdam, Berlin, Dresden, or Vienna. The cultural scene in New York will never depend on a single orchestra.

    • Also, it implies that the Met orchestra is better or more important than the NY Phil.

      • schweigundtanze

        Sanford, that would be a correct implication. The MET Orchestra plays circles around the current NY Phil. Of course, Gilbert isn’t helping things in that matter.

    • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

      Satisfied: first, please understand that this is no way meant to be bitchy – I am far removed from the Met (I haven’t attended a performance there since the beginning of the last decade and almost always forget about the radio and Internet broadcasts and confess to having never attended one of its HD cinema broadcasts), but I am confused when you say, “New York is not Amsterdam, Berlin, Dresden, or Vienna. The cultural scene in New York will never depend on a single orchestra.” I can only speak from the perspective of a resident of Vienna, but it sounds to me like you are saying that we depend only on what I must assume you mean to be the Wiener Philharmoniker.

      Yes, the Philharmoniker plays an important role not only on home turf but as an ambassador for Austria throughout the world through its extensive touring schedule, but its repertoire is rather limited. We also have resident, fulltime world-class orchestras in the Wiener Symphoniker, Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien (RSO-Wien), and the Tonkünstler Niederösterreich, all of which have specialize in repertoire which you won’t find at a Philharmoniker concert (a friend, a journalist in NYC, once described its repertoire as “Bruckner, Brahms, Beethoven, and Bruckner”), all of which share the stages of Konzerthaus and Musikverein. We also have the period instrument orchestras Concentus Musicus Wien and Wiener Akademie, and the highly-praised contemporary music ensemble Klangforum Wien. Several of these orchestras also perform as pit bands for opera performances at Theater an der Wien and other houses which do not have a resident orchestra but import one best suited to the period of the opera.

      Even from this distance I can appreciate that New York will never depend on a single orchestra, but I don’t see how that statement applies to Wien (or, for that matter, Berlin; I am less familiar with the music scenes in Amsterdam and Dresden). Can you please clarify?

      • grimoaldo

        Please excuse me for butting in with a completely extraneous change of topic here but I wonder,Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin, if you saw phoenix and me hoping that your cloud might perchance have floated by the broadcast of Les Huguenots from Nürnberg the other day?
        phoenix heard it but I missed it, boo hoo. (He might have told us on here first(!))
        Anybody who maybe recorded it and can share it with me? does Betsy Ann still follow this blog?
        Oh how I would luuuuuuuv to hear it!

        • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

          Sorry, Grim and phoenix, but I didn’t catch it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get my hands on it. I will ask one of my friends who simply has to own everything ever recorded/broadcast and has more opera on external drives than can possibly be listened to in a lifetime (I think he said he now has 121 “Fidelios”). I actively try and keep the content of my Mixcloud site balanced (Purcell to Reimann), but also try to accommodate requests. I recently realized that I had nothing pre-Mozart on the site, but the two Händel operas which I posted and the current “Dido and Aeneas” have not been very popular. I put up a Mercadante rarity – and some time ago a Meyerbeer rarity – and both flopped relative to the number of “listens” they got. La Cieca and I have the program worked out through the end of July, and I am trying to put together a plan for the rest of the year. I will certainly post the Nürnberg “Les Huguenots” if I can get it. In the future, if you have a request, please either leave a comment in the thread for the weekly “Montag mit Marianne” post, or e-mail me at

          • grimoaldo

            Thank you so much JML, I would really really appreciate it. I listened to your Meyerbeer rarity! Did you put the Handels up on here? If so I missed them. Yes, sorry to post in an inappropriate place but I am sort of desperate to hear that Huguenots. Thanks for all you share with us!

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

              Grim: I sent out a call for the Nürnberg “Huguenots.” It’s a holiday here today, meaning a lot of people will take a four-day weekend, so I don’t expect an immediate answer. I will keep you posted. Händel’s “Serse” was featured on Parterre Box as a “Montag mit Marianne” upload a few weeks ago. Another Händel title was uploaded around the same time, but not included in the “Montag mit Marianne” series. You should bookmark my Mixcloud homepage and check for titles which are not featured on Parterre Box (for instance, a few weeks ago I uploaded Jonas Kaufmann’s “Winterreise” from La Scala – an excellent in-house recording – but it’s received very few hits since it wasn’t promoted on Parterre Box – I had just uploaded three other performances of “Winterreise” by Padmore, Keenlyside, and Finley which were featured on Parterre Box, so adding another seemed like overkill). Here’s the main address:


              You may also find some items of interest in the earlier posts (I began the site about a year ago) dating from before La Cieca kindly offered to sponsor me in December.

            • grimoaldo

              Oh thank you soooo much JML, I can’t wait to hear it! I will have a look at your site, I have quite peculiar taste I think but I am sure I will find a lot to interest me!

      • Satisfied

        Hello Jungfer.

        After reading your thoughtful post, I realized I was not clear -- at least, I realized I did not say what I had actually intended.

        My comment was focused on the Met Orchestra and AFM Local 802’s statement that one orchestra could be “critical to New York City’s tourism.” The cities I listed -- and please feel free to disagree -- are those with revered orchestras whose identities are much a part of the fabric of their city. I have been to many cities in Europe, but few as frequently as Berlin, Amsterdam, and Vienna. Maybe its perhaps because I am looking for it, but the orchestral presence of each of these city’s leading orchestra is felt almost immediately upon arrival. Few cities pride themselves on their orchestra as much as the cities I mentioned.

        It was unfair to say that the cultural scene of any of these cities is dependent upon any of their orchestras. You’re entirely correct: especially in Vienna, there are many institutions that add to an amazing cultural whole. But Vienna, unlike New York, is a city whose principal orchestra (which, in New York, as Stanford thoughtfully points out, is not the Met Orchestra) actually attracts tourism.

        New York has no orchestral parallel to Berlin/Dresden’s New Years Eve concerts (I was at Berlin’s concert this past New Years with Rattle conducting and Lang Lang performing…a memory I will always cherish) or to Vienna’s (impossible to-get-a-ticket-to) New Year’s Day Concert.

        New York tourism depends on big Broadway musicals SIGNIFICANTLY more than anything the Met Orchestra is doing. And, as much as I adore the Met Orchestra (and my beloved NY Phil…), no orchestra in the city attracts a “critical mass” of anything…much less tourism.

        • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

          Please excuse my brevity, but I am in the midst of packing for a weekend trip – yes, to go see an opera – (I must still try and get some sleep and be out the door in about 10 hours), so let me just hit you with what I think is your biggest misconception of the role of the Wiener Philharmoniker in day-by-day Wien, as well as with respect to tourism.

          As you most rightly note in your comment on the Philharmoniker’s three New Year’s Concerts (the dress rehearsal, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day), tickets are obscenely expensive and next to impossible to obtain (I believe you can enter a lottery a year in advance to win the right to purchase a ticket).

          But such is the case with almost all Philharmoniker performances. Subscriptions, held on to for decades, can be passed on to family heirs, and are extremely hard to obtain. There is also the attitude of the orchestra, which continues to alienate many Wieners. The one olive branch is the annual free concert in the gardens of Schönbrunn, but I believe you even have to have a (free) ticket to attend (obtained through a radio contest, or applying in writing to the orchestra, or whatever).

          Thus, the Symphoniker, RSO-Wien, and Tonkünstler are far more accessible – in price and availability – to both residents and tourists. If a tourist wants to attend a Philharmoniker performance, the easiest way would probably be to buy a ticket through an agency at an insanely inflated price.

          A few years ago, a friend from Florida booked a trip here and got a ticket to a Philharmoniker concert through an agency online. He paid at least twice the face value of the ticket (which is high enough to begin with) and it turned out to be an “Orgel-Balkon” ticket in the Musikverein with NO view of the stage – ZERO!

          I must run! I hope that at least partially explains my position on the role of the Philharmoniker as a tourist attraction. Ciao! (I will be senza Internet till Monday).

  • steveac10

    Did it occur to these people that revenues for pre-Gelb productions are falling because the productions are old and tired. he only one of their primary examples that has held strong is the Flute, which is relatively new and has likely benefitted from the abridged version performed for every other revival.

    also -- no discussion of the revenues generated by the new media expenses, nor what percentage of those costs are actually royalty payments to the orchestra, chorus and other artists.

    The fact that the Met has a world class orchestra and chorus is really frosting on a brownie. When they were packing them in in the last so called “golden age”, they rarely rose above mediocre. They seem to be inferring that quality rose because Volpe handed them a blank check and their pay skyrocketed during his tenure. The fact is people go see opera for the stars. If I want to see Aida in a 25 year old production that was outdated and tired when it premiered, it’s not because the chorus and orchestra are awesome. It’s because there is an Aida, Amneris or Rhadames I want to hear live.

    • “The fact is people go see opera for the stars.” Some people.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    I wonder who will be appointed to succeed Gelb.

    • Well, given the orchestra and chorus’s position that everything was better in the good old days and that for an opera house to actually, you know, produce opera is nothing but a silly waste of time, I’m thinking the reanimated corpse of Edward Johnson might be a good candidate.

      • steveac10

        And if we’re lucky he’ll revive the Ring in the renowned “Hudson River” sets and find even more ways to reuse pieces from old Joseph Urban flats and drops. Hope they’re all still in the warehouse somewhere. While we’re at it, I think it’s high time the principals start providing their own costumes again.

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

      • Actually, their position appears to be, “as bad as things were in the old days, things are even worse now. Who else have you got?”

      • Stendhal

        In what business or enterprise of any sort would it be deemed an intelligent strategy to declare the imminent death or decline of your medium? When has Gelb ever sounded positive, inspired, and understanding of opera as an art form? When has he demonstrated any personal charisma in his leadership style, or anything short of methodical calculation?

        It is not difficult to imagine some very basic improvements in the leadership style of a new GM at the Met.

      • operaassport

        Can Schuyler Chapin’s ashes be reconstituted? Lol.

        This must be the year for depressing music news. Everything is bad.

        I go to opera for a compelling experience. People who go “for the stars” must have the attention span of a gnat.

    • redbear

      Reminder: He signed a ten year contract in 2012. The other issue: his budgets are likely approved by the board. Are you talking about replacing the board too?

  • Fluffy-net

    I think you are being mean. The orchestra is great, and they have a right to be proud. I remember what it sounded like in the 1970s, and I remember how Levine worked with and developed it over the years.

    Opera offers a lot of different things. We go for singers, but I also go for the orchestra and the production. What makes a great evening is when all parts come together.

    But true, it now looks like even if there is a deal that management and the unions will never be able to work together again.

  • I started reading it, but my eyes rolled so far back into my head that I just had to stop!

    -- Terrible, blatantly partisan writing
    -- Terms not defined (87.5% OF WHAT, you fools?)
    -- Unsourced quotations from Peter Gelb
    -- Horrid-looking bar graphs at the end

    • I know it’s distressing to encounter partisan writing from one of the parties to a contract negotiation. Could you clarify for me, though, where did you find that number “87.5%”? Without a source, it becomes hard to follow, you see.

      • Oh, SORRY, I meant 82.72, obviously, from the second page of text. And it’s likely the figures are for percentage of the house sold, but it’s hard to tell when they don’t bother telling you what they mean.

        But I’m sure you get the point I am making: the whole thing is carelessly written and needs serious editing. The carelessness makes me read it with some skepticism.

        • Very easy to type 87.5 when you meant 82.72, so all is forgiven. Anyway, I’m sure you get the point they were making in that paragraph: on average, revivals of Gelb shows tank -- they in fact fare worse than non-Gelb revivals.

          The facts may be incorrect, there may be flaws in the argument, but it’s not difficult to understand their claims.

        • Very easy to type 87.5 when you meant 82.72, so all is forgiven. Anyway, I’m sure you get the point they were making in that paragraph: on average, revivals of Gelb shows tank -- they in fact fare worse than non-Gelb revivals.

          The facts may be incorrect, there may be flaws in the argument, but it’s not difficult to understand their claims.

  • Salome Where She Danced

    Gelb and the unions: a plague on BOTH their houses. Each is competing equally effectively in turning us off the whole damned enterprise. (I’m not re-subscribing). Especially since they insisit on making their grisly, bloody sausage in full view of the public eye.

    • kennedet

      Unions versus administration and their problems must be examined on a case by case basis. To label all unions under one paint brush is non productive.

      My fear is in today’s world with closing opera houses, changing of cultural tastes, dying opera patrons, etc,the Met can be eviscerated with all of the ranting, ravings and blaming which doesn’t seem to get any better and there doesn’t seem to be a solution in sight. This blog will also reap from this chaos. We’ll be commenting about what happened when the Met was functioning, whose fault it was or talking about this or that recording. I am not a pessimist but we need some clear and correct decision making at this juncture because our quality of life is at stake.

  • imhere

    I’m honestly stunned at how this site has turned so pro-Gelb. The box office numbers don’t lie. Even with deep discounting his revivals fall short. Over the years I’ve read story after story on this page about his poor productions, but now he’s a genius. Or are we all just anti-union? The unions didn’t pick this fight, Peter and Kevin Kennedy did. If Peter had shown one iota in his spending the employed would have had to take notice. The fact is he didn’t. He has twice now given himself 30% in raises and then given back 10%. Directors and designers are all paid over-scale because they are all of his “geniuses”. He spends money like a drunken sailor on productions that have been ripped to shred on these pages. Now everyone on here loves him. I just don’t get it.

    • armerjacquino

      This site always takes a huge lurch to the right whenever unions are under discussion. Sad but true.

      • “This site always takes a huge lurch to the right whenever unions are under discussion.”

        A common problem among liberals, actually. Quite seriously, I am glad I am not the only one here who noticed!

      • operaassport

        A lurch to the right, meaning correct. Because the unions here are dead wrong. I’m not anti-union, I’m pro-union. But I’m definitely anti-greedy union and that’s what one has here. These guys are the 1% equivalents of the greedy Wall Streeters and Bankers.

        They remind me of my colleagues in Academia who don’t live in the real world. They’re in a cocoon of privilege.

  • imhere

    And here’s a fun factoid for you all. The Ring was not 16m or even 19m. It was closer to 60m. Most of the costs were shifted to other budgets, like labor because of the bad press that that figure would have generated. The last minute construction to reinforce the stage floor was 1m alone. The re-vamping of the show when the machine failed to perform as it was advertised was also worth several million dollars. I understand it’s convenient and timely to blame the “Unions” for the Met’s troubles, but one doesn’t have to look far to see when the real problems started.

    • imhere

      Peter has done some great things for the Met. His HD series and some of his outreach programs have been a huge successes, but if someone drove their car into a crowd of people and then got out of that car and saved a kitten from a tree, the headline wouldn’t be “Man saves kitten from tree”.

    • Finding out the “true cost” of the ring is one reason the unions want to see more transparent accounting from the MET, and this allegation suggests why Peter Gelb would rather face a lockout/strike than do that.

  • Signor Bruschino

    Remember this parterre post from August 2012? I think they should be citing posts from this site to back up their arguments:

    • imhere

      Absolutely ^
      That’s why it’s difficult for me to understand why everyone is so quick to blame the employees. I understand unions have been painted by the Fox News crowd and the bogeyman, but this site and the comments from the moderator and followers have surprised me.

      • I understand why you oontinue to work in the hellhole of the Met; after all, they pay you a very fat salary so you can turn around and anonymously badmouth them. What I don’t quite get is why you put yourself through the agony of commenting on parterre where not everyone agrees with you. I mean, it’s not like you’re an employee here.

        • imhere

          If you’ve never worked at the Met and don’t truly understand what those who do give up to do it, you probably should reserve comment. And if anonymity on your site is a problem -- I’ll reveal my identity as soon as you reveal yours.

          • Has my identity ever been a secret?

            • imhere

              Touché. Well as soon as Peter is shown the door and everyone sees that the Met will thrive in his absence, I’ll reveal my identity too. Until then I would rather not be escorted out by those same security guards that did so to you. I would think that your readers would like to have information from someone directly involved, but I could be wrong. You have certainly chosen your side and won’t be swayed.

            • The problem here is that you’re presenting yourself as an insider privy to all sorts of knowledge about the Met’s finances, and for all I know you’re just repeating something you misheard at the water cooler. It seems to me that he only person who could have definitive knowledge of (for example) how much the Ring “really” cost would be someone who has direct access to financial and accounting information. So the quandary is this: either you do work in accounting at the Met and you’re revealing privileged information, or else you don’t work in accounting at the Met and you’re repeating gossip. If you’re going to continue to present what you’re saying as truth, then I think we need to have enough information to be able to judge how reliable you are as a source.

              I am not asking for you to identify yourself, but you see the problem here: anyone can claim to have insider knowledge, and I don’t even know what your agenda is.

          • operaassport

            What a fool and a coward. Is there anything lower than a supposed insider trashing their employer and whining about “what they gave up” to grace them with their presence.

            • imhere

              And the name calling begins…. Lovely site you have here.

            • operaassport

              Well, your behavior is foolish and cowardly if you are who you are claiming to be. That’s not name calling. It’s accurately describing your behavior.

              As for name calling, it started when those on your side began calling Peter Gelb everything short of Hitler, although I suspect that’s coming.

      • huswest12

        Look at what unions did to the harbor in NY.
        One of the best harbors in the world and it is not used.
        Look at what the unions did to the fashion industry in New York .
        Look at what the unions are doing to the city of New York and the education of out kids.
        Look at what unions did to the car industry in Detroit.
        Unions protect lazy workers.Good workers don’t need a union to survive.

        • “Look at what the unions did to the fashion industry in New York

          You mean how they stopped employers from locking workers in and causing them to die in fires? Yep, it’s sad that the good old days are gone because of all these unions and their insane demands. We’d have a lot more jobs if people would just shut up and demand a lot less. Those jobs would probably pay about 50 cents an hour, but we’d have jobs, right?

          • huswest12

            When the people had no voice they served a purpose- not anymore.Unions today want less work for more pay.Most of us survive very well without a union.

            • turings

              I think helping people who work to do more than just ‘survive very well’ was one of the points of unions. It’s a bit sad that you don’t expect any more than that.

            • perfidia

              The nerve of those union people trying to hold on to their financial gains. It is positively un-American. Who do they think they are? Citi Bank? Mortgage lenders? Goldman Sachs?

          • operaassport

            Its not 1920 anymore. That’s what the unions seem to think. We’re not talking about protecting low wage workers from fires. We’re talking about giving 1% types bigger and bigger salaries. That’s not what unions were created to protect.

          • 98rsd

            To compare union “workers” making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year with exploited sweatshop laborers is ludicrous.

          • You can also take a look at what’s happened to workers in industries that have busted the unions, like meatpacking. Enjoy that burger.

            • operaassport

              We get it, management bad, union good. That’s some people’s reactionary view on this subject.

            • Is that the demon rum talking? Whether you like or dislike unions, it’s difficult to disagree that union-busting in the midwestern meatpacking industry (aided by capital mobility, advances in refrigerated trucking, the highway system, and lax enforcement of labor laws) turned a job that was previously considered a solid middle-class job into a very dangerous one undertaken only short-term by mostly willing immigrant labor.

              Enjoy your burger!

        • blansac

          Look at what the extremely strong unions have done to the economy of Germany. I guess those German workers are all lazy. Why else would they want to be in a union? Could unions actually provide some sort of safety and security for the workers?

          Fashion industry in NY is pretty damn strong.

          I’m surprised you didn’t bring up the construction unions in NY. I mean, with the unionized wages they’re getting surely no construction would be happening at all in the city. Oh wait, construction around the city is insane. And the unions mean that the construction workers get some benefit of the boom instead of being given garbage wages.

          Without the unions, developers would be pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars more while the workers would be getting peanuts.

          And yes, unions have obviously destroyed NYC. It’s so expensive to rent or buy a place now that nobody wants to live here.

          Workers will get absolutely abused and exploited whenever management has a chance to do so. Unfortunately, that’s become the American way and many Americans cheer that abuse on.

          Have you read how musicians and performers were treated before unions came about? They unionized because the treatment of them was barbaric. There’s very good reasons for unions and it would be a shame if this country has to learn about them all over again.

          • huswest12

            You must be a very wealthy person not to worry about the cost of living in NYC.
            The MTA union is doing a great job on he NYC subway as well.

        • armerjacquino

          Good workers don’t need a union to survive.

          Not a fan of weekends, maternity pay, the concept of the 8 hour day, sick days, or employment rights, then? Okeydoke.

          • huswest12

            I have all that without a union.
            As I said unions served the purpose.

    • I don’t see that the post you cite would be of much help to “them” because the reasoning in that post is nuanced: La Cieca didn’t point a finger at a single factor and say, “This and nothing else is your problem.”

      Here, in a nutshell, is my problem with the union argument: it’s based on the “single cause” theory, i.e., Peter Gelb spends too much money on frills like productions, and if he would just run the place like good old Uncle Joe, we would all be lapping up milk and honey again.

      But there are a large number of variables in play here, so the comparisons put forth to “prove” incompetence are, in my opinion, not of very much value. You can’t compare attendance at Aida and Boheme to anything else because those operas sell differently from just about anything else in the repertoire. You can’t compare a Schenk Ring conducted by Levine and presented over a six-day period to a Lepage Ring conducted by Fabio Luisi and TBA, presented over an eight-day period, particularly when a lot of potential audience members have lost their jobs in between the two cycles.

      Understand I’m not saying, “it’s the economy’s fault” or “it’s James Levine’s fault.” It’s a complicated problem for which Peter Gelb bears some responsibility, and for which he should be held accountable. But that’s a very different point of view from simply calling him a villain and pretending that ousting him would magically solve all the Met’s problems.

      • antikitschychick

        “But there are a large number of variables in play here, so the comparisons put forth to “prove” incompetence are, in my opinion, not of very much value.”

        Absolutely. Could not agree more. The finger pointing and the personal attacks need to stop and the actual negotiation needs to start. Gelb does need to take responsibility for excessive spending instead of just blaming the economy and the ‘cultural rejection of opera’ however true that may be, though to blame him (and only him) for the Ring debacle and all other Met woes is childish. He has taken risks like any great impresario and not all of them have paid off. Furthermore, if revenue cannot sustain the workers’ income then cuts are necessary, though cuts should be across the board, which means the administration should take pay cuts as well. But the point is, the personal attacks need to stop so that a consensus can be reached. As Gelb himself once said, the Met is not a for-profit organization. Their profit is art and that is where the focus should lie.

      • blansac

        It’s not a good approach the union is taking. AGMA’s too seemed remarkably unsophisticated. They’re using tactics from 30+ years ago.

        Gelb is the board’s guy. They just signed him to a ten year contract. The more they attack Gelb, the more the board is going to circle the wagons around Gelb. Even board members who aren’t enamored by Gelb will stick up for him in a situation like this.

        One of the reasons the Met workers get paid as well as they do is due to the board’s largesse. If board members get disgusted with the union tactics they may decide to drop their level of donations -- either out of spite or disillusionment. The unions need to be very careful here.

        There was the NYT article a while back talking about how Ann Ziff has a weekly breakfast with Gelb. Ziff is also one of the Met’s biggest donors. No doubt she has influence over other board members. Attacking somebody she is close to is counter-productive.

        Gelb also take criticism very harshly and very personally. I’m not sure if he’s a vindictive person or not, but if he is, this is the kind of thing that could set him off. Hopefully he can rise above this kind of attack and brush it off.

        The union could have raised these issues (which are good ones) in a softer and more subtle fashion instead of wielding a sledgehammer. The board is smart. They would have picked up on it and may have appreciated the tact and respect used.

        • turings

          I must say it makes me cringe a bit to hear that workers should use ‘tact and respect’ in making their case, because of the delicate sensibilities of the rich people upon whose ‘largesse’ they depend. I really hope decision-making isn’t based on such unprofessional reasons as you suggest here.

    • turings

      The numbers for the 2012/13 Ring revivals:

      Das Rheingold 65.34% of revenue capacity
      Die Walküre 64.85%
      Siegfried 48.24%
      Die Götterdämmerung 54.78%

      The box office numbers provided here are terrible, and the addition of figures for percentage of revenue capacity makes the picture look much worse than the raw figures for seats sold.

      • grimoaldo

        Those figures are pretty dreadful aren’t they but what can you expect but when they put on a show with a leading lady who makes a national critic respond “why not stay home and sing along with Deborah Voigt, the Brunnhilde, while crisping your fingers on an oven burner?Waaaaah. That sounds about right.”
        What a relief when six hours of “tiresome wailing finally died down.”
        One after another operatic masterpiece traduced at that place recently by “stars” who can’t sing them.
        “Understand that none of this is to suggest that the Met is doing a perfect, or even a very good job of presenting opera.”
        Right, it’s just not very good. I really don’t care if it closes down if they are going to keep putting on turkeys like Fledermaus and the most recent run of Trovatore.

  • At my first glance, Figure 8B is pretty telling, and ought to give pause to those who have been ridiculing the union’s position in all of this. (I do wonder where pension and health costs are showing up on that graph, though.)

    • turings

      Their basic argument is quite cogent: expenses have gone up and most of that money has been spent on new productions which have performed worse in revival than pre-Gelb productions, and on media, which has failed to draw new audiences. Box Office receipts are atrocious, which they blame on management. And they have already taken a pay cut.

      I don’t think it’s difficult to understand the frustration of workers who are being asked to take another pay cut when they blame management for doing a lousy job of producing operas that their audience will pay to go to. But even if they are completely right, and management is entirely to blame for the state the Met is in, they will probably end up having to accept cuts anyway, because of the financial position the Met finds itself in. I have some sympathy with that.

    • operaassport

      Do you even realize or understand that in the real world most people don’t get pensions and pay 50% of their health insurance?

      Do you know how little the members of the MET unions pay for their own health insurance?

      • armerjacquino

        The fact that non-unionised workers get fewer benefits than unionised ones is, as ever, an excellent argument in favour of unions.

        • operaassport

          Only in an ivory tower.

          • armerjacquino

            Well, that means literally nothing.

            It’s a terrible argument, that’s all. ‘I don’t get that, so he shouldn’t’ . Far better to ask why you don’t have benefits than to resent those who do.

            • operaassport

              It’s not about resentment, it’s about the ludicrousness of fat cat musicians asking for more and more from a not for profit organization at a time of economic crisis both at the institution and in the larger world they live in. It’s absolutely insane and makes one sick to one’s stomach.

              But what’s more disgusting is that they — and their defenders here — don’t seem to get that it’s time for some fundamental change and holding into the past is not helpful. Defending this view and the noxious behavior and that goes with it is sad.

              Have things gotten so Orwellian that sticking up for fat cats making six figure salaries with fully paid benefits is somehow considered the same thing as being against sweatshops and the 80 hour work week?

      • turings

        Depends where you live in the real world.

      • imhere

        Operaassport -- do you know how much we pay for our insurance? Mine was several thousand last year. Please do tell me how much exactly. You seem to be an expert.

        • operaassport

          People making SIX figures should pay for their own insurance rather than asking the public to pay it for them.

  • Unions are still absolutely necessary in today’s world, in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. My problem with a lot of union arguments is that they are all based on what people “deserve” and what’s “right”.

    We ALL deserve great wages, pensions, sick days, vacation time, etc. But when we’re talking about not-for-profits, the biggest deciding factor should be what the organisation can afford. It’s sad that non-profits can no longer afford to give great pensions and other extra-salary benefits. But if the organisation is constantly running deficits, it only makes sense to take a look at the biggest chunk of the budget.

    In the Met’s case, it is labour costs which make up two-thirds of the budget. Even if spending in other areas were out of control and was reigned in, it would only make a small different to the overall budget.

    In a for-profit situation, if the company is reaping huge profits, the unions have every right to demand their share. The problem as I see is that unions in arts organisations routinely view management as if it is some multi-billion-dollar corporation. That kind of thinking leads to bankruptcies — a lose-lose situation for all involved.

    • turings

      If you look at their argument, it is precisely that of out of control spending in non-salary budget items has in fact made a large difference to the overall budget.

      According to their figures, operating expenses have risen from 221.6 million in 2005/6 under Volpe to 326.8 million in 2012/13 under Gelb. But the proportion of that budget that is spent on performances has declined from 72% to 61%.

      And they argue that the new spending has been wasteful, in that it has largely been on new productions, where the revivals have been comparative flops at the box office, and on a media strategy which does not seem to have been successful in attracting audiences.

      Not that an argument from a union on the basis of ‘what’s right’ would necessarily be a bad thing in any case …

      • I imagine that a large portion of the increased expenses have gone towards the HD broadcasts and, as we know, those costs are off-set by the revenue brought in by the broadcasts (which have turned a profit the last couple of seasons).

        Also, the way I see it, if the Met’s expenses have increased by 50%, then so have labour costs, which means that the unionised employees have benefitted from the increased costs.

        I don’t view money spent on new productions as wasteful. If a company stops doing new productions, then it might as well stop operating. No one ever talks about the tickets sales that are generated by the buzz surrounding a new production.

        No, the arguments presented by the unions are far too simplistic.

        • turings

          I’m not saying their arguments are all good ones, I’m summarizing them for you, because there is nothing in the actual document to suggest that they are based on what the unions think they deserve or what is right – and if you are going to call their arguments simplistic you should engage with what has actually been said.

          What they say that they are being asked to make a significant investment in the future of the Met (which to me suggests a tacit willingness to make some concession, if not 16%), but that they have no faith in the current artistic leadership. They give reasons for that, based on attendance figures, including statistics at the end for new productions, old productions and revivals.

          They probably will have to take cuts because things are going so badly, but the suggestion that they are simply being naive or entitled seems unfair.

        • No Expert

          I don’t think the argument is that spending on new productions is wasteful, but that spending on new productions that consistently under perform is wasteful. That being said, if it were easy to predict which productions an audience will respond to then we would all b F***ing geniuses.

          • httpv://

        • “Also, the way I see it, if the Met’s expenses have increased by 50%, then so have labour costs, which means that the unionised employees have benefitted from the increased costs.”

          Figure 8B would seem to belie your claim, at least as far as the orchestra goes. Or am I reading it incorrectly?

          • Figure 8B refers to base salaries, not total compensation. I imagine that any compensation derived from the HD broadcasts is not included in the base salaries. Basically, that chart is useless unless it reflects the complete compensation of the Orchestra.

          • I find all the charts and numbers cited hard to follow, and maybe that’s the intention here. Sometimes the amounts are in 2013 dollars adjusted for inflation, other times the amounts are in real dollars — which means that if you are trying to compare a 30% increase in compensation (adjusted for inflation) to a 120% increase in costs (expressed in real dollars)you really can’t say just how big the difference is.

            There’s also the issue that a lot of the discussion centers around base pay when (as I understand it) most or all of the orchestra receive significant overtime and other supplemental pay according to work rules. Over time, base pay might remain fairly flat, but if necessary services increasingly become “extras” (i.e., not covered by base pay) then costs can get very high indeed.

            Again, I’m not saying one way or the other, but it would be handy to have a single standard of how compensation and costs are expressed.

            • Would you also say that the MET needs to be more transparent about their numbers as well, especially since there’s a suspicion that budgetary gimmicks have been employed to, say, hide the true cost of various new productions and revivals?

            • I think it is up to the organization in question to make public whatever numbers they think are relevant to the argument they are making. I don’t think, either as a private citizen or a journalist, that I have any particular right to audit the books of either the Met or the unions.

              Whatever numbers they do choose to provide, though, I think should be presented in a consistent way so that useful comparisons can be made. Base salary, for example, is not as meaningful a statistic as gross compensation.

            • So you have no problems with the union claims that the Met is offering deceptive statistics?

            • I’ll get back to you after I confer with counsel.

            • Heh.

            • Cocky Kurwenal

              La Cieca, isn’t it part of a serious journalist’s role in society to call out cherry picking (of data) when they see it?

            • Yes, when they see it. I am not sure it’s a journalist’s role to stick his nose into a business’s account books when there is no accusation of law-breaking or even impropriety. If the unions were saying that Peter Gelb had siphoned funds away from the Met to build a house in the Hamptons, that would be a completely different situation.

        • antikitschychick

          aaaand while I was typing that long diatribe below you pretty much expressed my exact sentiments lol.

        • antikitschychick

          sorry that last post was in response to Kashania.

      • antikitschychick

        “And they argue that the new spending has been wasteful, in that it has largely been on new productions”

        But how can investing money on new productions be considered “wasteful”? The Met will not gain new audiences by presenting the same dreck productions year after year…I realize we are in an economic recession but I really think innovation is much more crucial to a 400+ year-old art form than fiscal conservatism is, especially considering that opera is and probably always will be an expensive, lavish art form.

        Moreover, the unions’ only basis for claiming that the productions have been wasteful is that they have not been critically-acclaimed, clear-cut box offices successes, thus in retrospect, its easy to say that the money was not well spent. But as Cieca says, many factors are at play here and to blame everything on this one particular aspect is myopic and overly reactionary.

        I do, however, agree that there have been too many new productions in a short time span and that, the spending has been somewhat excessive, since much of the money used for new productions could have been better spent on other equally important endeavors, such as creating arts programs in tandem with local schools and conservatories to widen the audience-base as well as hone local artists, or attracting better internationally-renown singers, or commissioning more new works (though the latter is something they have been doing). One could certainly say that many productions were not successful, but wasteful is too extreme an accusation. These productions were created with a very specific purpose so to basically accuse Gelb of throwing money away aimlessly (which is what that word denotes) seems nonsensical to me. I mean, I remember it was reported that the cost of the HD transmissions initially exceeded the profits, yet now the opposite is true and it has turned into a successful endeavor. Just think what would have happened if Gelb and Co would have abandoned ship after the first season or two? Well that would have been wasting money indeed. But instead, they stuck to it and now other major opera companies have implemented the use of HD transmissions.

        He essentially tried to do the same thing with creating new productions, only he did not budget for all the expenses properly and did not always choose the best directors. Though tbh I didn’t find most of the productions as horrible as a lot of other fans/critics/spectators did. Oh and fyi, my little sister who is 15 and not into opera at all, watched a few scenes of Enchanted Island with me when they were showing it on PBS and she liked it and said it was cool so there :-P.

        • turings

          This is my fault for putting a comma after ‘productions’. I blame spending too much time in Germany for my increasingly lousy punctuation in English. Let me try again:

          ‘they argue that the new spending has been wasteful, in that it has largely been on new productions whose revivals have been comparative flops at the box office …’

          The problem, as they see it, is that revivals of new Gelb productions have not been successes at the box office – which they take as a marker of artistic failure as well as just a waste of money. And ‘wasteful’ was my summary.

          • antikitschychick

            ohhhhh well that does make a difference, but no worries turings you are just the messenger and I appreciate your efforts :-).

            • turings

              No problem! Don’t trust me though – just read the thing through if you’re interested (it’s short) and see what your take on it is then :)

        • I question the comment about “too many new productions.” By what standard? Most of the first rank of international opera companies offer from six to 10 new productions each year, even when the total number of performances and the number of pieces in the repertoire across the season is smaller than the Met’s. (Here, for example, is the list of new productions for the Berlin Staatsoper in 2014-2015.)

          • antikitschychick

            too many new productions by their own standards and according to what the Met itself can afford me thinks, since you yourself pointed out that a comparison to European houses is not feasible since a) European houses are smaller and give less performances and b) they receive government funding, a portion of which surely offsets costs relating to productions. Plus, in places like Berlin and Vienna attendance is at like 99% which is way more than the current numbers the Met have provided.

            The Met on the other hand, runs on donations, which can come and go. In recent years, the endowment has decreased as have the number of subscriptions and the deficit has grown because of excessive (though not wasteful!) spending, and a large chunk of that is comprised of production costs as well as labor costs. If they simply cannot afford the costs because there is not the revenue to pay for them then that further exacerbates the deficit, thus imo they need to put a cap on the number of new productions in a given season until box office revenue and subscriptions go up or the profits from the HDs increase.

            • antikitschychick

              the Met *personnel have provided…ughhh.

            • You understand that what you are saying is equivalent to, “Sales of ladies’ dresses are not so good this season, so we can’t offer any new styles until business picks up.”

            • antikitschychick

              I didn’t say they need to stop offering new productions altogether, I said they need to LIMIT the number of new productions. I.e. rather than offer 10 new productions (or “dresses” if you want), they can offer 5 or 6 and either borrow the rest (i.e. do co-productions) or keep the existing ones until the near-bankruptcy situation is resolved. In the analogy you gave you said “we can’t offer ANY new styles” when what I said was, they need to offer a reduced number of new ‘styles’ because they can’t afford to keep paying for new ones, though I dont think comparing an opera to a consumer product is particularly helpful in this instance.

              Again I’m all for innovation and the replacement of dated productions, which is often times a costly endeavor but not at the expense of them going bankrupt.

            • steveac10

              antikitschychick -- they’re only doing 6 new productions next year, 3 of which are shared with other houses. There are rarely more than 2 or 3 a season that are fully “home-grown”. It’s also not a guarantee of quality. Once you commit you’re stuck even if it turns out to be a dog like Faust. Then again Volpe spent what had to be a fortune on the home grown Serban production shortly before Gelb took over and it was a total dud as well -- although it was at least prettier than the Harold Prince monstrosity from earlier in the Volpe era.

            • antikitschychick

              Yes co-productions can be a catch 22 but with a strong cast the performances may still sell. 6 new productions seems like a sensible number…I’m looking forward to next season and I hope it goes well for them…and us lol.

            • Porgy Amor

              [Co-productions are] also not a guarantee of quality. Once you commit you’re stuck even if it turns out to be a dog like Faust.


              Is that really the case? I understood that Gelb had “committed” to the Bondy Rigoletto with La Scala and the Vienna Festival, and once he got a sense of the reception overseas, he dropped it like a hot potato.


              Whether its replacement, the Mayer Vegas transplant, was an improvement can be debated. I have never seen the Bondy, so I offer no judgment.

          • turings

            They don’t criticize the number of new productions per se – that was my bad phrasing – their critique is of the lack of return on investment in new productions because, according to their analysis, the revivals of the new Gelb productions have performed very badly at the box office, which, they say, demonstrates bad artistic as well as financial management:

            “We are being asked to bear a huge burden and make a sizeable “investment” in the future of the Met. However, from our experience over the past eight years, we feel this current Management has demonstrated a failed artistic vision, something we will quantify via Gelb-specific box office performance, his denigration of the art form of opera, his disparaging of our audience, and his runaway spending in the name of “New Productions” which have nothing whatsoever to do with the supposedly “increasing labor costs.” We believe that allowing this type of mismanagement to continue is the thing that truly would imperil the future of the Met.

            “Peter Gelb has justified his massive spending increases based on his assertions that only New Productions sell at the box office, but this appraisal is wrong in two ways: first, many pre-Gelb era productions continue to sell well at the box office. But more importantly, investments in new productions can only yield a long term return if the public comes back to see subsequent revivals. And the Met’s box office numbers show a definitive drop in Gelb Revival attendance.”

            • jackoh

              There is one sure way to bring about the death of opera as an art form, and that is to embalm it while it has any life left.

      • Batty Masetto

        It seems to me that the argument on new productions is parallel in a number of ways to what happened to Rosenberg in San Francisco. I was personally very happy with where she was taking the repertoire but it was apparently too far out for the bulk of San Francisco opera-goers. Plus, she wasn’t good at keeping the board on her side. So she had to go.

        It’s not clear to me, first of all, that Gelb’s eye for new productions is as good as Rosenberg’s was, though I give him points for trying. And second, it’s obvious that a number of New Yorkers (many of whom comment here) have tastes every bit as conservative as those in San Francisco. If Gelb’s track record is as poor as the union’s figures seem to indicate, he appears to be doing something of a Rosenberg. The difference, of course, being that he appears to still have the backing of the board, which Rosenberg did not.

        • SilvestriWoman

          Here’s a pretty fair piece about Rosenberg’s time at SFO. I particularly remember the issue with the Barbiere set. I believe the second set was made because, due to its weight, it could not be transferred from the rehearsal space to the stage.

          • Batty Masetto

            Yes, Rosenberg never got a feel for how to manage things in a US environment, and it’s something of a relief that Gockley has put things back on an even keel, albeit at the cost of some artistic quality. One of the lines that jumped out at me is this:

            “Gockley made peace with the unions…”

            • When deciding whether to attend an opera performance, my very first thought is always, “Is this company run on an even keel?” I mean, who goes to the opera for “artistic quality?”

            • grimoaldo

              The artistic quality of SF’s Ring, at least in terms of the music making,of which I did not see the whole thing, only parts, was so far above the Met’s as to make the comparison ludicrous.
              Other very memorable performances I saw at SF Opera under Gockley include a fabulous Idomeneo, a great Die Tote Stadt, *Ariodante*, one of the most enjoyable events to me I ever attended, I saw Ewa Podles for the only time in my life in Trittico…….
              The last couple of years have not been on that level but the coming season will feature *Partenope* so that makes SF Opera, to me, a far more interesting centre of artistic quality than the behemoth of mediocrity in New York.

            • Batty Masetto

              Yes, Grim -- I didn’t say we’re suddenly stuck with lousy quality, and you’re absolutely right about the relative merits of the two “Rings.” Myself, I would very much approve of a diet with plenty of “Grand Macabre,” “St. François d’Assise” and “Doktor Faust.” But it seems they did not put bums on seats. (Plus, as SilvestriWoman points out, Rosenberg had other significant issues as well.)

              We didn’t go at all last season because we thought it was so uninteresting. But it seems we were in the minority, and unlike the Met, the house seems to be functioning. The coming season looks a good deal more promising, including the ROH “Troyens” with Hymel and Antonacci. We also got a poll about what operas we’d like to see and what values we appreciate in productions. It was a bit inane but it’s one indication of how the company is trying to be responsive to its audiences. And surprisingly, three of the offered non-warhorses that I checked off have shown up in the coming season. (Ballo, Troyens, and a Handel.)

              No matter how lofty your artistic quality, if people aren’t coming, you got nuttin’. I loved the “Parsifal” and “Prince Igor,” but if I were forced to choose between Too Much Racette and an opera house that’s dark because of strikes, I’d take the house that’s running.

              (Which doesn’t mean I think unions should be given carte blanche. But in all this muddle it doesn’t look to me like that’s what they’re asking for, either.)

            • SilvestriWoman

              Caro Masetto, my hometown opera company is presenting far more interesing seasons and -- excepting Gockley putting Racette in half the operas -- casting than my adopted town of Chicago. Some of the SF buddies scoffed at Show Boat but that’s far more appropriate -- IMO -- than The Sound of Music. (In fact, I’d argue that Show Boat is a stronger work than Fledermaus or Merry Widow.) Next season, you’re getting Antonacci!!!

              Lyric has been playing it very safe and has a shorter season than SFO. Sometimes I think they try almost too hard at expanding their base. Do Second City evenings, children’s operas, Hispanic productions fill seats during a regular season? I wonder. Though I’m looking forward to the Ring with Goerke and Owens, I’m deeply disappointed that, except for a special gala evening with Renee, Kaufmann hasn’t been back since the Dessay Manon. Davis’ go-to Wagnerian tenor is Johan Botha who -- I’m sorry -- I can’t watch. I wouldn’t mind his obesity if he’d attempt to do more than stand and sing.

  • Indiana Loiterer III

    I’m not entirely convinced by the report’s case, simply because it’s choosing the wrong things for comparison. First off, I would have chosen Tosca and Traviata to compare with Aida and Boheme, not the Ring; the Wagnerian audience isn’t the same as the standard Italian repertory audience. Then I would have compared the box office for the current productions of Tosca and Traviata with the box office for the last few revivals of the prior productions of those works; that way you might get a better sense of how much difference to the box office a new production makes. Then again, while not everyone goes to the Met for stars, stars do make a box-office difference. And then then again (!), I wonder whether the poor revival performance of many of the new productions of the Gelb regime reflects the fact that a lot of those new productions are of non-standard works.

    • Tubsinger

      Isn’t it easier to cast boheme than it is the Ring? Isn’t boheme the quintessential “entry level” opera as opposed to the Ring? IL3, I have to agree completely that this is not a comparison from which one can glean useful metrics. Bing used to speak of the ABC operas--Aida, boheme & Carmen--which would be counted on to fill the house fairly well. When Flagstad, Nilsson & Melchior were singing, Wagner fans would buy tickets as well. (Flagstad, in the Met’s anecdotal history, is said to have staved off a dark theater during the 30s.) Stars do make a difference.

      This issue has become a “public sector” fight in all media for hearts and minds, and I think that’s completely expected. As a [true] straw man once noted, I think it’s going to get darker before it gets lighter.

  • olliedawg

    I guess this all boils down to one idee fixe for the union spokespersons: Gelb needs to go. If only HE were gone, then all things would be bright and beautiful. Perhaps there’s an inside story about a cadre of Board members looking to dump PG overboard (which may explain the “Klinghoffer” HD cancellation), but so far, the public perception is that the Board is backing their guy up all the way.

    • I think their idee fixe is more that PG is neither a trustworthy manager nor a trustworthy partner in negotiations. I think they’re asking for oversight, not his head.

      Anyway, PG shit the bed this week with the news of his and other administrators’ salary, followed by the Death in Klinghoffer debacle. He seems to be capable enough of sullying his own reputation.

      • thirdlady

        For me, “new productions,” can only refer to the disastrous Lepage/Gelb Ring.

        “Pound for pound, ton for ton, the most witless and wasteful production in modern operatic history” is really a fitting epitaph. Has any other new production of the Gelb era been so critically excoriated? Or cost as much?

        • Indiana Loiterer III

          Well, the Bondy Tosca gets dumped on all the time at Opera-L as the ultimate in Regietheater, though I doubt it cost as much as a single component opera of the Lepage Ring.

          • pirelli

            For me, the only unforgivable misstep in the Tosca is changing the ending, all for the sake of the freeze-frame of the jump.

            To contrast, the only thing I really LIKED about the Ring production’s physical design were the projections. But you didn’t need that worthless overgrown mechanical backyard patio of a set -- the projections would have worked nicely on a set that coast far less money and had far less problems.

            As for the Rigoletto -- when I saw the PBS broadcast of the HD, my first impression of Act I was -- well, the chorus is all standing around in this Vegas casino, parking and barking and not really doing anything specific relating to the dramatic situation -- the only thing that makes this 1950’s Vegas are the sets and costumes. The men could have also stood around singing in Mantua just as easily…;-)

      • Bob

        Peter Gelb has made every effort to antagonize the unions before he met with them. Criticizing their present earnings and implying they are not worth it was bush league. Now they don’t trust him at all. He will need the cooperation of the unions before this is over. Gelb needs better advice than he is apparently getting. I hope the season can be saved since I’ve already subscribed for it

    • steveac10

      All of the missives from both unions, as well as the comments from anonymous supposed employees of the house here on Parterre seem to point to the desired conclusion of this whole mess as the removal of Gelb. My question is to what end? No replacement is going to be Volpe 2.0 -- which is clearly what they all want. Volpe’s ascendence was a fluke not likely to be repeated and any potential replacement is highly unlikely to “be one of them” (which is clearly how they view Volpe).

      As for the Klinghoffer debacle -- my guess is Gelb’s hand was forced by the theater chain that is the major domestic presenter of the HDs as the ADL was pressuring them as well.

  • redbear

    Here is something in the WSJ today about Italian opera’s problems. Many sound the same including unions. It is doubly interesting that Milan’s French director Stephane Lissner, taking over in Paris in 41 days, balanced the La Scala budget for nine years straight, introduced innovate productions, major conductors, won big new donor support, and thus became an exception in Italy. He, incidentally, trimmed staff when needed but ended up with increased no. of productions and ticket sales.

    The link:

  • So the MET Board took out a full-page advertisement in the New York Times today. The estimates I’ve seen for full-page B&W issue-ads run from $70,000 to $100,000.

    Reasonable use of money?

    • messa di voce

      May have been paid for with private money.

    • Clita del Toro

      Croche, what did the ad say?

      • It’s a very long open letter. To save me the trouble of retyping it, see whether this link works for you.

        • grimoaldo

          “We are increasingly regarded as the best opera company in the world…Met’s chorus and orchestra, they are the best in the world…we believe it is the greatest in the world”

          I wonder if they really think that? I certainly do not, not any more.

          “We hope that we can focus on opening another remarkable season in September”
          Another remarkable season opening with a prima donna who can’t sing and more Samsed up operetta!

  • Avantialouie

    FACT: Gelb has spent millions on new productions and received next to nothing for his money. FACT: Unions across America have been instrumental in destroying not-for-profit arts organizations in droves. Until these two groups actually start TALKING to each other, nothing is going to happen. Negotiations? How silly. So far, neither group has said anything to each other except for the rational and emotional equivalents of “Your mother wears combat boots.” Is it too much to ask the personnel in either group to somehow or other get themselves beyond the first grade? The public has a right to expect better from both.

    • steveac10

      Nothing? How about the Decker Traviata, From the House of the Dead, The Nose, Parsifal, Butterfly, Satyagraha, Falstaff? All brilliant to pretty damn good. There are others like the Eyre Carmen and Werther, the 1st two installments of the Donizetti queens trilogy, and the Lucia, that if not earth shattering at least provide solid and attractive frameworks for the future. I would argue the same for the Fledermaus. Shitty libretto and translation (both of which can be replaced), but a very attractive physical production for a new director to make shine. I would say his track record is at least as good as Volpe’s (especially when you consider the big box office extravaganzas of Zeff and Schenk -- Boheme, Hoffmann, The Ring, Fledermaus, Rigoletto and Turandot were shepherded by his predecessors). From Volpe we got the overblown fruits of Zeffirelli’s dotage and not a whole lot else: A spectacular Frau, a decent Ariadne, a lovely Onegin, a Queen of Spades that lost whatever spark it had after the first season, and a Troyens that impressed in round one, but looked tired the second time around. Then there were the 2 exorable Fausts, a Trovatore laughed off the stage, a bargain basement Cenerentola, 2 dud Lucias (one regie lite and one on the cheap), and an inoffensive Marthe Keller Don Giovanni that doubled as Sominex both time I saw it. If Gelb has wasted money, Volpe was smoking it.