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Belt, tightened

Following all-night bargaining with the Met, AGMA and Local 802 “have agreed to cut a little more than 5% of their members’ compensation during the first year of the four-year contract, growing to 7% in the second and third years,” say those familiar with the negotiations. (Note correction, recently updated in the Crain’s article linked.) [Crain’s New York Business]


  • 1
  • 2
    DeepSouthSenior says:

    I read all three articles. At first sight, this seems like a sensible and equitable arrangement. Everyone gives something. There is shared sacrifice without a crippling blow to either side. Management faces the greatest ongoing responsibility, which is as is should be -- Grow the endowment and continue to produce a world-class product while reducing annual operating expenditures. Seems like a satisfying agreement to me. Now it’s up to Gelb to make or break his legacy in the next four years.

  • 3
    DeepSouthSenior says:

    The agreement also appears to be quite innovative. It also may seem “solid” enough to encourage donors. I intend to increase my annual support, meager as it is.

    • 3.1
      ML says:

      That’s virtuous, Deep, but frankly I don’t see the point of non-millionaire individuals giving to the Met with the tax structure as it is. Let New York’s big fortunes and businesses do the lifting, and Gelb the asking, and keep your money in your good family.

      • 3.1.1
        DeepSouthSenior says:

        Sure, I know that in the big scheme of things my giving is just a token, really. Thousands of tokens might add up to a nice little dent in the budget, though. If my friends can throw their money at a Foundation to pay another overpriced college football coach, I can do my little part to support the arts. (Some of those football coaches would laugh at Gelb’s salary.) Deep South types tend to be generous toward the things they believe in, no matter how much the government forcibly extracts from us for all manner of absurdities.

        All seriousness aside, I enjoy getting the mailings inviting me to the exclusive European opera field trip of six performances over ten days, a bargain for twenty-four select patrons at a mere $30,000 or so (find your own way to Paris). You know, the trip where Flicka serves you lunch. Or was that Flicka singing on a cruise? Those people have nothing on me. I paid for my ushers’ flashlight batteries on my last trip to the Met.

          operaassport says:

          Bravo DeepSouth for giving based on your principles. You’re to be commended. Not everything can be left to the “millionaires.”

          kashania says:

          Indeed, those under-$1000 donations to the Met probably add up to millions in a year.

          • ML says:

            … and $0,000s in admin. The ratio in telefundraising is often above 50%, and with direct mail it can be over 40%.

            I wonder if the Met is transparent enough now to show the proportion of unearned income from donations of less than $1,000?

            My guess is it’s below 5% of total unearned income. Then, when you apportion admin, the amount is mostly wiped out.

            Better to let Mr. Gelb wine and dine and deal in the $000,000s.

            • kashania says:

              It’s true that the cost of telefundraising is much higher than most of any company’s fundraising activities. It’s not always necessarily 50%, however, and the cost of direct mail is definitely lower than 40%.

              The fact is that even the high-cost fundraising efforts are still necessary for any company to meet its financial goals. The money that comes from direct response (mail and phone) is money that is not coming in any other way and still adds up to significant amounts.

              Also, many major donors start out as low-end donors who make their first donations through the mail or phone.

              Same goes for special events fundraising, the cost of which is much higher than major gift fundraising. But all these activities (direct response, major gifts, special events, corporations, foundations) are necessary for the Met (or any company relying on donated funds) to meet its goals.

              If the Met only focused on low-cost fundraising, it would have to rely even more on tickets sales or cut expenses even further.

  • 4
    operaassport says:

    I think we have to see all the details before coming to any conclusions but if 5% is accurate I don’t see how that makes a big enough dent to make a big enough difference but only time will tell.

    • 4.1
      johns33 says:

      guess I need to budget for an increase in my subscription next year and the price of a brownie will go up.

    • 4.2
      Krunoslav says:

      Maybe top management should be forced to justify wasting time and money on lunching with trolls?

      • 4.2.1
        operaassport says:

        Thank you, Mr. Gordon.

      • 4.2.2
        steveac10 says:

        What does this even mean? Who or what are the trolls management is lunching with? Firstly if a $500 lunch results in a $1000 doaton, it was worth it -- and I doubt that ratio is typical. If that $500 lunch results in a $10,000 donation, I say bravo -- good return on investment!

          DeepSouthSenior says:

          If I ever got near a $500 lunch, Mrs. DeepSouth’s Scottish ancestors would rise up and strike me down with the vengeance of MacDuff.

      • 4.2.3
        ML says:

        I don’t read Operaassport’s posts as those of a troll, which is not to say I always agree with her or him.

          operaassport says:

          People who don’t like what someone has to say — and have no counter argument — resort to name calling, ie, the use of the epithet troll.

          It’s no different than fanboys saying “stop hating” when you express a differing view on one of their objects of worship.

          It’s so much easier to do that, apparently, than make any sort of half assed argument.

          • CwbyLA says:

            You are funny operaassport. When someone makes a point that is against your argument you almost always resort to a condescending tone and name calling (fanboy, as in the above comment, being a mild example of this behavior). We have yet to hear you saying to someone “you MAY be right.” But of course if someone else resorts to namecalling, i.e. Krunoslav, you clutch your pearls and cry foul. You are funny, really funny.

    • 4.3
      warmke says:

      Clearly, management has realized it will not get deeper cuts at this time from the musician’s union. The remainder has to come from exceptionally tight Bridget restraints, which one will see reflected in the next few years. If the situation worsens, obviously, the next negotiations will be a true bloody fight for survival, and no one will think that whoever is heading the negotiations is lying.

      They have yet to settle with the one union with power, the stagehands. I really doubt that you’ll see a 6% cut for two and a half years in their contract! which will make for a tense situation! but stagehand expenses can be controlled in a more fluid manner than orchestral or choral budgets! which have basic artistic requirements you can’t go under in an international theater.

      It’s always this way: AGMA barks the loudest because they have the least power. AFM and IATSE are the unions that can make administrators lose sleep. AGMA just makes you turn off the ringer on the phone.

      • 4.3.1
        warmke says:

        Nothing like typing in the dark on an iPad mini with old eyes for odd punctuation. Sigh.

          manou says:

          Maybe DeepSouthSenior can subsidize your flashlight batteries -- although I for one am enchanted with the punctuation but mostly with dear Bridget.

          • warmke says:

            Yes, I love apple spell check as well. Fuck it. I give.

          • Sempre liberal says:

            I thought I was the only one worried about Bridget’s exceptionally tight restraints. Is your autocorrect from Ireland?

      • 4.3.2
        DeepSouthSenior says:

        I’m slower on the uptake than usual this morning, after a fitful night’s sleep. I was thinking, Who is this Bridget van den Whatever, a super-donor who’s calling the shots at the Met? Oh, now I get it. Never mind.

  • 5
    antikitschychick says:

    No lockout!!!! Hurray!!! :-D

    I read Dawn Fatale’s piece and I suspected he was right about the lockout being unlikely given all that’s at stake.

  • 6
    OpinionatedNeophyte says:

    If only AGMA had insisted on Dawn Fatale’s suggestions as part of their negotiations. As is, they (like all unions tend to) have given up something, but the management will continue their current business model. The goal is always to reduce management pain rather than engage in real reform.

  • 7
    InsideOut says:

    The fact that the contract is four years is good news.

    However, it seems to me that management paid dearly for comparatively modest union concessions. Not that there isn’t pain in the pay cuts, but work rules are unchanged, benefits untouched. Management now has large expense cuts to administer with a contractually-mandated “fiscal chaperone” monitoring.

    We’ll see what comes from negotiations with Local 1, but management seems to have ceded much ground.

    • 7.1
      operaassport says:

      I think Inside Out is correct, based on what we know. Things are going to worsen. Unless they’re hoping for a better economy to bail them out which I think is wishful thinking.

      Grateful there’s going to be a season but I think they just kicked the can down the road a bit. It’s like what some states are doing regarding pensions: tiny reforms that move the ball slightly forward in the hopes things will get better. They ain’t.

    • 7.2
      DeepSouthSenior says:

      I’m hoping that the following will be the harbinger of better things to come: (1) Actual pay cuts, modest though they may be; (2) Management’s commitment to reduce operating expenses in other areas; and (3) Independent monitoring (Watchdog? Spending police?) of financial transactions and contract compliance. Baby steps? Perhaps. But every journey starts with the first step, half a loaf is better than no loaf, etc. (insert cliche here). Now management will have an even tougher time balancing efficiency and creativity. That’s the nature of the job anyway, right? So, I say let’s support ’em as much as we can, and root for the home team for the next four years. Everyone wins, or everyone loses.

      • 7.2.1
        operaassport says:

        I’m curious what responsibility those outside management have to ensuring the institution survives. Any?

          DeepSouthSenior says:

          I assume you’re referring not to employees, for whom survival is the incentive, but to the independent monitors. Personally, I wouldn’t accept such a position unless I loved the institution and wanted it to survive. But even if someone is operating only as a mercenary “hired gun,” the success of the institution will accrue to his own benefit. If the client wins, you win. The reverse will also be true, of course, deserved or not. No one wants to be remembered as “that compliance guy when the Met went under.”

  • 8
    Cocky Kurwenal says:

    Thank heavens. For a moment there, I thought we might not get to bicker about Trebs’s Brindisi.

    • 8.1
      manou says:

      Persiflage et commérage sont les deux mamelles de Parterre.

    • 8.2
      kashania says:

      Well, we could’ve always compared her cancelled performance to superior cancelled performances from 1980.

      • 8.2.1
        Cocky Kurwenal says:

        You’re so right, there is actually no reason why it should have stopped us.

          la vociaccia says:

          “If Mara Zampieri’s Met contracts hadn’t been terminated before her debut….”

      • 8.2.2
        Porgy Amor says:

        Well, we could’ve always compared her cancelled performance to superior cancelled performances from 1980.

        If “mot du jour” were open for voting…

      • 8.2.3
        Porgy Amor says:

        Some would be able to go back even further, to the lockout of 1969. Eva-Maria Westbroek is a good, hardworking singer, no doubt. But had she been prevented from singing Santuzza this season, would one have “not-seen” anything like the abandon, the savagery, the sheer italianità of the canceled Cossotto Santuzzas of an earlier era of labor strife?

          kashania says:

          You know, I tried to look up what the casting was for those cancelled shows in 1980 but couldn’t. All I got (from the Levine article) was that there was a Turandot, Samson, Pykova Dama and Cosi.

          Surely, some parterrians know…

          • steveac10 says:

            Given the way casting went in that era the Pique Dame was probably something along the lines of Kubiak, Kraft, McCracken and Monk. Soviet artists were still a rarity at that point and they tended to cast off the beaten path rep with house singers. There was probably a press release in February or March that year with major casting details. My stash of ancient Opera News issues long ago succombed to a flood in my grandmother’s basement -- and their archives online don’t go back that far. The NYT archives might turn something up for you.

            • quoth the maven says:

              The cancelled Pique Dame: Tomowa-Simtow, Dunn, Domingo, Weikl, Cheek; Jarvi


            • overstimmelated says:

              I have a ’80-81 subscription booklet, and it has: Tomowa-Sintow, Dunn/Chookasian, Domingo, Weikl, Cheek/Monk (cond.: Jarvi). Right Monk, wrong role (I think).

              I dredged this up a few weeks ago when La C. ran the puzzler about the originally cast T&I, but this little booklet, which I think is the last-chance subscription booklet, not the orig. brochure, simply has Jones/Vinzing, Troyanos/Killebrew, Wenkoff/Cassilly. (Vinzing was to have made her debut in Götter at beginning of season which never took place.)

              Funny, there’s a reference to “strike” in the booklet — p. 2 is headed “Let the lightning strike you.”

            • Krunoslav says:

              I have also read that Teresa Zylis-Gara was to appear as Liza; maybe she was to be second cast and get the broadcast after AT-S had the prima, as they divided things in those days.

              The thing I really wanted to hear that that strike foreclosed was the Janowitz VOIX HUMAINE/Wenkoff DIARY OF ONE WHO VANISHED double bill.

            • messa di voce says:

              “Teresa Zylis-Gara was to appear as Liza”

              The Met was going to do Lady in the Dark?

            • Krunoslav says:

              No, it was this:

              The name, in Russian , is “Liza”, not “Lisa”, and the opera is called PIVOKAYA DAMA.

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              Did Janowitz end up doing La Voix Humaine anywhere else?

            • Krunoslav says:

              “Did Janowitz end up doing La Voix Humaine anywhere else?”

              Guest performances in Serbian for Tito’s quarter-century celebrations, a double bill with Radmila Bakocevic doing “La Dame de Monte Carlo”.

          Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

          That being said, Porgy, Cossotto did join the Met for tour performances as Santuzza in that strike season (1969/1970), and I heard her third performance at Lincoln Center in September 1970, and it was all you say, and more! And that Domingo kid wasn’t bad, either (not to mention Stratas as Nedda).

          • Krunoslav says:

            Between Bumbry at the prima and Cossotto on tour, Met audiences heard Ina Delcampo (Innsbruck’s Own Ingeborg Felderer) and Ballarat’s Own Marie Collier as Santuzza.

            But two tour cities got one of my favorite weird tour castings ever:

            Nedda……………….Edda Moser

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

              Mr. K. -- You might enjoy one of Moser’s four Met Musettas atème-act-ii-06-march-1974/

              The entire performance is to be found there (Pavarotti, Zylis.Gara), although this dazes from when I first started my Mixcoud site and was still uplaoding operas act-by-act.

            • steveac10 says:

              I don’t know that Moser as Nedda is all that odd, but if you look at the sequencing her Neddas were not contiguous which means she was likely on the whole tour and covering Amara (who had the balance of the Neddas) on most of the stops.

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

              You might particularly enjoy the passage starting at 14:50.

            • Buster says:

              Moser recorded Der Bajazzo in 1980, auf Italienisch, despite the title. With Franco Bonisolli:


            • Krunoslav says:

              As I recall Moser was announced as sharing ERNANI with Mitchell for the 1984 tour ( in which she sang or at any rate appeared in RINALDO) but she never in fact went on as Elvira. Do we grant that *that* would have been weird?

            • Buster says:

              Both Nedda and Elvira are weird, I agree. In an interview she once said she regretted her last name was not Moserova, which would have gotten her more Italian roles. She loved singing them, but because of the silly prejudice againgst Germans singing Verdi etc. she was never booked enough for them, she felt.

              The one “odd” thing Moser did I would love to hear is Lulu.

            • oedipe says:

              Well, in all fairness, the prejudice against Italians singing German opera is even more ingrained: Italians singing in German are a much rarer breed than Germans singing in Italian.

    • 8.3
      DeepSouthSenior says:

      I love exchanges like this! The best of Parterre in miniature: Opera knowledge shining brightly, long memories on parade and (mostly) intact, history treasure hunt uncovering hidden gems, some sharp humor, and a little craziness thrown in for good measure. I’m beginning to think it all makes perfect sense, which is actually pretty scary.

  • 9
    pasavant says:

    I pay on average $350.00 per Met ticket. When they call me for a donation I tell them I gave at the box office.

    • 9.1
      98rsd says:

      That’s nonsense. If you can afford a $350 ticket, you can afford to donate. Box office covers only a small portion of the expenses. So what you are essentially saying is, let someone else donate.

      You’re living off other people’s charity.

      • 9.1.1
        Sempre liberal says:

        Which is better for the MET? If I spend $2000 on tickets and $150 on a donation vs. if I spend $1800 on tickets and $350 on a donation. I like my seats, but I guess I’d be OK going cheaper. (I’m rounding numbers.)

        I also only donate to the Guild, as I like getting Opera News. Which is better for the MET, donating to the Guild or donating to the MET directly?

        I am not being hostile in asking these questions. I genuinely do not know the answers. (I also had 3 glasses of wine tonight…)

          Lohenfal says:

          I don’t have any answers to your questions, but they are worth considering. I always give something extra to the subscription, most of it to the Guild because I like the benefits, as you do. With the changeable pricing that exists now, what is a proper valuation for each seat? The price that I pay per ticket in advance of the season can fluctuate up or down as the season progresses, and I have the impression that a lot of discounting goes on for certain operas. It’s hard to say if whatever we’re paying for the tickets is enough, too much, or too little under the current system. When the prices were fixed in advance, it seemed easier to figure out if they were fair. Now it’s all confusing.

          Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

          Sempre L., don’t worry or apologize: I am on my third cocktail.

          As I have mentioned before, after 30 years of support (whatever I could afford as a Guild Member, even once attending as a teenage university student one of the annual Waldorf luncheons and being the only person in the room under 60; Zinka was the guest of honor) and regular attendance at the Met (virtually every night in standing room in my university years; Family Circle seats for special occasions, particularly new production premieres), I am now extremely removed from the Met and its politics (and pricing), and have never even seen one of its HD broadcasts.

          The last performances I attended at Lincoln Center were during my last visit to America in November 2003. I had a longtime friend, then retired, who maintained a connection to the company and easily arranged, in advance, for me and my traveling companion prime orchestra seats for $40 for a “Figaro” (Furlanetto, Hong, Croft, Röschmann; Levine), and a matinee of “FroSch” with Deborah Voigt. The “Figaro” seats were in the fifth row of the orchestra level, just to the right of the aisle, and the “FroSch” seats were dead center in the orchestra, not beyond row H (and, from my experiences decades earlier, surrounded by an astounding number of empty seats, particularly for a Saturday matinee).

          Just out of curiosity (I don’t see myself returning to America in the near future), does the Met still offer such reductions for company members -- past and present -- weeks – or months – in advance?

          Please excuse my ignorance of the company’s ticketing policies over the past decade.

          • ML says:

            Someone should invite Jungfer on an all-expenses-paid trip to the U.S. and the Met, as an expression of gratitude. It wouldn’t be tax-deductible, but it would go further than the same funds dropped into a $300 million budget.

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

              How utterly sweet of you to suggest this, ML, but I have to say that I am extremely spoiled right here, with Wiener Staatsoper and the magnificent Theater an der Wien within walking distance of flat, plus easy access by train to other major companies: Salzburg is now 2 hours 22 minutes, Bratislava 1 hour, Graz 2 hours 40 minutes, Budapest 3 hours, etc. Even Covent Garden is not that far (but finding a reasonably-priced place to stay in London is). So given the horrors I’ve heard about international (outside the EU) air travel in the last decade, I am happy to go as far as the ÖBB (Austrian Railways) and the occasional flight will take me.

          • Lohenfal says:

            Jungfer, I don’t have an answer to your question re ticket price reductions for company members, but I’ve met people who have found ways of going to practically anything at the Met for relatively low prices. There are so many seats empty at certain performances nowadays that one just has to wait for the right moment for the discounting to start. The pricing policy is so flexible that I wonder if I should still be subscribing, but I like my location so that’s why I’ve held onto the subscription.

            If I lived in Wien like you, I would probably not be thinking about the Met. Unfortunately for those of us in NYC, there isn’t that much else going on operatically outside the Met, so we remain supporters despite our reservations about repertory, casting, staging and everything else that’s questionable. If the Met collapses, we’ll be left with very little else.

    • 9.2
      figaroindy says:

      I imagine the original 15% reduction was thrown out to start the negotiations, meanwhile, it’s settled at just under half of that (7%) for the 2nd & 3rd years, so it’s a case of “meeting in the middle.” One presumes management started “high” with a goal of meeting in the middle, and that this is good. I agree the benefits not being touched is a frustration, but one step at a time, I guess.

      And -- seeing the comments above about not donating or “gave at the box office” -- I think we can agree that Gelb’s fundraising job is not exactly comparable to a university fundraiser, as was suggested in the past. And that’s the reason it’s such a huge part of his job, and why he’s considered right for the job. So many people feel that their ticket price is “enough” to fund the arts, even though, in their next breath they argue that ticket prices only cover xx% of expenses, and that an endowment needs to be bigger, or other suggestions. The European model uses public funding to aid in fund-development, but we in the US expect those that USE the service to fund it…and less tax money is given in those cases (we also pay lower taxes than in much of Europe, for that reason). I think Gelb’s fundraising may well be his most necessary skill going forward, to cover for what was not achieved in this agreement and also to work to increase the endowment.

      • 9.2.1
        figaroindy says:

        To expand -- a university fundraiser doesn’t face the “I’m giving in another manner to your organization” argument that is presented above…and probably have an easier time convincing alumni that they “benefited” from the organization in the past.

        Also, this emphasis on major fundraising/endowment is why his job is rarely attractive to any Europeans in the arts…they don’t have to fundraise so aggressively, nor in the same manner, as they have government funding at a much greater level than in the US. They would be ill-equipped for such a task, and they know it.

          operaassport says:

          I don’t see the comparison to a university fundraiser at all. It’s comparing apples to oranges. University fundraising is easy by comparison. There’s an emotional component to it that simply can’t compare to giving to an arts organization.

  • 10
    La Valkyrietta says:

    I guess now it is safe to sing this song,

  • 11
    kashania says:

    We were talking about Levine’s silence on this whole episode. I wonder if he would give this kind of interview today…

    In it, he not only talks about 1980-81 labour dispute but also talks about how he conducts more than he should because getting other conductors like Solti and Mehta is difficult.

    • 11.1
      ML says:

      He wouldn’t.

    • 11.2
      Tamino says:

      I’ve often wondered why Mehta has not conducted at the MET since 1971, after having been a regular there from about 1966 on.

      I had always presumed that Levine’s appointment had something to do with Mehta’s absence. The fact that Levine mentioned him here by name perhaps indicates that there was no personal animosity.

      But in the 40 some years that have passed since his last appearance, surely Zubin could have found a month or two to devote to the MET, right?

      I’m sure someone here knows the real story….

      • 11.2.1
        kashania says:

        Since leaving the NYP, Mehta has stayed mainly in Europe and Israel. But surely, during his long tenure as Music Director of the NYP, there would have been ample opportunity…

      • 11.2.2
        Camille says:

        Me, too.

        I would like someone to spill their guts, as Mehta had quite the flourishing career at the Met, some 97 performances, between December 1965 and March 1971 (as per he Met Database).

        Levine means to tell us that Mehta could never find time in his schedule, in the intervening FORTY-THREE YEARS?

        What a crock.

      • 11.2.3
        rofrano says:

        Ronald Wilford.

      • 11.2.4
        ML says:

        Ernest Fleischmann! Exclusivity, etc.

    • 11.3
      Porgy Amor says:

      We were talking about Levine’s silence on this whole episode

      What was John Dexter’s quote (late ’70s/early ’80s) — “Trying to get Levine to make a decision is like expecting Clytemnestra to fry you an egg”?

  • 12
    Signor Bruschino says:

    Since this is settled, I guess we can move onto the calls to cancel Klinghoffer performances- you know that is going to bubble up again…

  • 13
    turings says:

    And now the stagehands have reached an agreement too – hurray!

    • 13.1
      Feldmarschallin says:

      So now the chorus only makes 200.000$ per year instead of 250.000$ Guess we might to start to pass the hat.

      • 13.1.1
        Daniel says:

        Oh please, FM, can’t we just drop this nasty sneering at the chorus, based on totally inaccurate propaganda, already? So tired.

    • 13.2
      Uncle Kvetch says:


      Heartily seconded!