Cher Public

What’s seen cannot be unseen

Which Met superstar—who’s no stranger to blind items this season—is the first to accede to the Met’s suggestion of a fee reduction of 7% for principal artists in upcoming seasons?

  • La marquise de Merteuil


  • messa di voce

    Blind items this season = Iolanta

  • arepo

    Yep. This one was a no-brainer … er … no-seer.
    Her Nebs for sure.

  • So if it is Netrebko, what IS her fee? I assume it’s the highest of anybody around. I remember watching an interview with Callas where she said “We make good money, but I’m not Frank Sinatra.” I imagine that people like her make their real money on recordings and also on endorsement deals — though there, “I’m not Peyton Manning” would apply.

    • Whoever the item is about, my understanding is that the current top fee at the Met for singers is $14,000 per performance. A reduction of approximately 7% would represent $1,000 less.

      CORRECTION: Top is $17,000… so a reduction of 7% would take that down to $15,810.

      Because the top fee at the Met (and most other theaters) is relatively low, that means there are quite a few singers who get that fee.

      • Do they get the fee for rehearsal time, or just performances? Are there reimbursements or per diems for travel, housing, etc.? I have no knowledge of this stuff and know that a lot of people on this site are insiders or close to insiders, so I am curious.

        Obviously that fee is a lot of money for most of us mortals, but yes, $14,000 is “no Frank Sinatra,” or whatever the equivalent is today.

        • Feldmarschallin

          Well in München you also get paid for rehearsal time and apparently also if you are sick and have a note from the doctor but I am not sure if I believe that. Someone said that to me but like I said that is being very kulant indeed. The top fee is also more here than at the Met.

        • Okay, this is remembering off the top of my head what I have been told over the years, but the Met does a rehearsal fee of $2000 a week until the opening night, and (again, I may be wrong about this) most contracts include air fare booked by the Met’s travel agency. Housing is the artist’s responsibility though at least at one point the Met worked with some kind of agency that matched up artists needing sublets for their apartments with visiting artists we need a place to stay.

          There are also supplemental fees for appearances on Sirius broadcasts and the HD. The latter is (again, I think) a fee for all video rights including DVD/Blu-ray release, paid against royalties that would kick in after break-even on the video sale.

          I think when we were discussing union negotiations last summer I pointed out that in an average season the Met pays a single chorus member a good deal more than they pay Anna Netrebko.

        • SilvestriWoman

          I haven’t sung at the Met, but I have sung at a top American house. As a principal, I was paid per performance. There was no per diem, but I was given a check upon arrival which was deducted from my first performance check. The company covered my airfare. Housing was available, but that was also deducted from my pay. In short, I made nice money, but a lot gets deducted. (Don’t forget the agent’s 10%!) Extra fees are certainly paid for broadcasts/telecasts/etc. -- that’s part of the standard AGMA contract.

          • steveac10

            Unless things have changed drastically, many of the larger regional companies that pay lesser fees will include housing in their contracts -- and a few even paid AGMA minimum for rehearsals. Still once you pay income, FICA, Medicare and state taxes (plus the accountant to keep it all straight -- one year I had to file returns in 5 states), there’s not much left. Once you factor in voice lessons, coaching and buying/maintaining concert garb -- you can find yourself relying on your church jobs to pay the rent.

      • I think the top fee is higher than $14,000 per, unless it has gone down. Here’s what the Met web site says:

        What is the top fee for artists?

        For the 2010 -- 2011 season, the top artist fee was $16,000 per performance. An interesting comparison is Caruso’s fee of $2,500 per performance about the time of World War I.

        Here’s something on Quora from last year:

        Top fee at the Metropolitan Opera is $17,000 a night. Yup, you read that right. Kind of incredible. On top of that, certain singers (really the top of the top at this point) command enough clout to be given sponsorships to bring that number up as high as $30,000 a night.


        SF Opera has a Great Singers Fund, which I take to be a way to pay Big Stars over scale.

        • I corrected my above comment to reflect the $17,000 figure.

      • antikitschychick

        I would have thought she makes at least 20k per performance. She and others certainly deserve it. Honestly, for roles like Norma, Lady M, Aida, Otello, any of the Donizetti Tudor queen operas, or just about any Rossini and Wagner role, I don’t think a six figure salary is too much. Its what the top athletes make and the singers that perform at the Met and other renown theaters are certainly the ‘top athletes’ in the arts field. Also, I apologize in advance if this offends anyone, and I know this is in many ways an inept analogy, but really, how hard is it to dunk a basketball into a hoop a few feet away when you’re nearly 7 feet tall???!! Yes I realize that there are several other nearly 7-foot tall dudes trying to stop that from happening but really, Lebron James could make slam dunks in his sleep, whereas, the cream of the crop in opera sweat bullets just to get through one phrase in Norma or Götterdämmerung or Otello. I know there’s the entertainment/mass appeal factor to consider but, in general salaries are so woefully unbalanced these days. End of rant :-P.

  • operaassport

    For comparison, last year the Kardashians pulled in $65 million and each of the stars of Jersey Shore made $5-6 million apiece. Sad, isn’t it?

    I don’t think there is much money to be made from opera recordings these days.

    If AN has done this, all one can say is Brava to her!

    • mirywi

      The quarterback of Baltimore’s football team is paid 55K a day. He signed a six year contract worth 120.6 MILLION DOLLARS.

  • overstimmelated

    “accede to” = Macbeths

  • Constantine A. Papas

    For AN, with 77 gigs from September 2014 to July 2015, the cut is peanuts. And she must make much more than $17K from recitals. Is true that European houses pay 20,000 Euros for top singers? She has so many engagements in Europe- Vienna, London, Munich.

    • Feldmarschallin

      Yes München pays 20.000€ for a small group of singers and AN is one of them.

  • Guestoria Unpopularenka

    I always thought that the MET paid the most. Apparently, I’ve been deceived. Also

    • Guestoria Unpopularenka

      Also, I’ve heard that for big concerts big stars get 6-figure fees.

      • Cicciabella

        I’ve heard (or rather overheard) this too: specifically, that Anna Netrebko earns at least 100,000 euros per concert in Europe. No idea if this is true.

        • Quanto Painy Fakor

          100,000 Euros is chicken feed compared to the much higher fees earned for concerts by some other extremely popular opera singers in mega venues the world over.

          • Guestoria Unpopularenka

            And which ones those singers would be bar Domingo?

          • Cicciabella

            The 100,000 euro fee was quoted in relation to normal-sized, unamplified concert halls, not pop concert halls or open air extravaganzas.

    • No, the major European houses have always paid higher fees. And yes, one-off concerts are far more lucrative, both in terms of the fees and the amount of time dedicated.

      • Guestoria Unpopularenka

        I remember reading that opera career is necessary to support the concert career i.e. concerts pay more but opera gives the prestige one needs in order to be able to give successful concerts.

      • luvtennis


        If you ever get the chance, take a listen to Renee’s long interview on the occasion of Leontyne’s NEA award.

        She talks about the “triple threat” career path that Lee recommended to her: concerts, recitals and operatic performances. It was funny because the upshot of Renee’s comments was that a lot of singers don’t give as much to their career paths as they should.

        How much do you think singers like Price and Sutherland earned for concerts and recitals?

        • I know that around 10-20 years ago, top classical artists like Yo-Yo Ma or Jessye Norman would get around $75K-$100K for concerts and recitals.

          Of course, the fees for the huge large-scale outdoor concerts that Pavarotti did were on a different scale altogether.

          • Quanto Painy Fakor

            For sure, even after expenses, such mega venue ventures can be very lucrative for the producers. The danger is if the event does not sell well.

  • Lady Abbado

    Similar discussion at Intermezzo, a long while ago, when Diana Damrau was still a rising star :)

    • Is that the discussion where Alagna was quoted saying he got $60,000 per concert versus whatever he was paid per opera performance? I was about to go poke around for that.

      Caruso’s $2,500 per performance before 1920 was an immense amount of money. Very likely the only other singer at the Met making that kind of money was Melba. Patti was paid $5,000 per concert (in gold, delivered before she went on stage).

      • No, it is not the Alagna discussion.

      • YigeLi

        For what I read, Patti was paid $5,000 per concert in 1883, which was much more than everyone else. Between 1900 and 1903, the average fee the following singer got was (these data may just apply to MET, not sure…):

        Jean de Reszke $2,300
        Nellie Melba $1,850
        Emma Calvé $1,800
        Albert Alvarez $1,400
        Lillian Nordica $1,250
        Ternina $1,250
        Ernest Van Dyck , $1,100
        Eames $1,100
        Sembrich $1,000
        Bréval $960
        Emilio De Marchi $780
        Gadski $700
        Ernestine Schumann-Heink $600
        Pol Plançon $555
        David Bispham $500
        Sibyl Sanderson $480
        Dippel $400

        And in 1903, when Caruso and his MET debut, his fee was $960 per performance. His fee hadn’t exceeded Emma Calvé until his 5th season there.

        • That looks familiar -- Robert Tuggle’s published data on (century-old :) singer pay at the Met?

          For comparison, after the depression hit, Giovanni Martinelli’s pay went down to $900 per performance, and he was the leading spinto at the Met for much of the 20s and 30s. (Yeah, Gigli and Lauri-Volpi did make some appearances…)

        • Guestoria Unpopularenka
          • DonCarloFanatic

            Wow. According to that calculator, my grandmother’s 1912 designer wedding dress, which cost over $1,000, would be the equivalent of more than $24,000 today. I did not know my great-grandparents were that rich.

  • This is an illuminating discussion. Thanks, all!

    Pavarotti died with a fortune of 250 million euros, but obviously his was a unique case, and one that is not likely to be repeated, with the success of the “Three Tenors,” recordings, massive outdoor concerts, and crossover duets with all the pop stars of his day. His was also a household name.

    Is Netrebko’s name known by the non-opera-going public anywhere outside of Austria? In one of those recent documentaries, she says that her Manhattan penthouse cost $20 million — but also that she took out a loan for it, and “I’ll be working the rest of my life to pay it off,” or something to that effect.

    To respond to antikitschychick‘s question about the relative difficulty of playing basketball, I think that’s the wrong comparison. (Certainly there are some routine sports tasks that are extremely difficult. Ted Williams’s observation about hitting a baseball is apt: Where else is a 30% success rate considered a very good thing?) Even a comparison with pop stars — virtually none of whom have the kind of training, let alone talent, that a good opera singer has — is still not the right comparison to make.

    I say all of this from the point of view of a socialist who would like to do away with class society: I have a soft spot for artists, professional athletes, entertainers, and even Hollywood celebrities, and do not, in general, begrudge them significant rewards. People of unusual talents are to be recognized in any kind of society, I think, because they perform a useful social function for everyone else. There have always been pseudo-populist attacks on the money accorded such people, almost always to detract attention from the real “malefactors of great wealth” (Theodore Roosevelt’s phrase, not mine). Attacks on “Hollywood” usually had an undercurrent of anti-Semitism, and sometimes still do; certainly attacks on professional athletes today rely heavily on anti-black racism for their potency, even though the team owners are billionaires.

    No, I think the much more apt contrast is between a great artist who makes a lot of money on the one hand, and a top corporate manager or moneyed investor on the other. The latter are more wealthy and also more numerous, but very few of us even know their names. Here is what Piketty has to say:

    “Recent research, based on matching declared income on tax returns with corporate compensation records, allows me to state that the vast majority (60 to 70 percent, depending on what definitions one chooses) of the top 0.1 percent of the income hierarchy in 2000-2010 consists of top managers. By comparison, athletes, actors, and artists of all kinds make up less than 5 percent of this group. In this sense, the new US inequality has much more to do with the advent of ‘supermanagers’ than with that of ‘superstars.'”

    What does Steve Schwarzmann do, exactly to take home $465 million just last year? He moves around other people’s money in a way that benefits himself alone: he takes over companies, lays off thousands of people, cuts their wages, unloads the pension liabilities on the government, then loads the company up with more debt to pay his own fees before eventually doing an IPO where he makes even more money. There is nothing useful for the rest of us in this entire exercise, and no decent society would be set up to reward such pathologically anti-social behavior. Yet he can hire Netrebko and Becza?a to sing in his living room.

    Top artists, athletes, entertainers, scientists, etc., are entitled to material rewards — sometimes very significant ones, I think — because that is a distinction that is worth it to society, because they make everyone else happier or healthier or both. But the rest of that 0.1%? Make them do real work like the rest of us.

    • antikitschychick

      Dawbrowski, this is a very cogent and thought-provoking post (and in my defense I did precede my basketball analogy with the disclaimer that it wasn’t really an apt analogy, for the very reasons that you mention, which I am in agreement with).

      However, going outside the scope of the arts and entertainment as you did gets us into a complex discussion involving the economic structure of modern society and the ramifications of capitalism, excessive deregulation, income disparity and so forth which although extremely useful in understanding the over-arching ideological framework of modern American society, doesn’t address the cultural problem we are facing which, in my view, is that, this society glorifies things that need not be glorified in the name of commercial commodification and profit which in the long run, when this system collapses and civilization evolves, will eventually be considered totally meaningless. One needn’t look further than at the sheer hypocrisy of attending one of these mass stadium baseball games while people in Africa are dying of Ebola. Even with globalization reaching new levels, it is obvious that the world is still separated into different conglomerations of social classes and hierarchies as I’m sure you know. Art, and especially opera, while in many ways is less productive and empowering as technology, at least forces us to confront the existence and to a certain extent the validity of “the other” as well as basic representations of human suffering and emotion on an amplified scale. In contrast, the only thing these large gaming franchises amplify, no doubt aided by the head honchos you mention, are excess amounts of superficiality and mediocrity. This is not to say that athletes themselves are mediocre (a lot of them are singularly gifted to be sure), but in a larger trans historical context their success is extremely irrelevant except as social codifiers of capitalist and commercial excess.

      Now, there is certainly an argument to be made that opera, which has become entrenched in traditionalism and elitism is also largely unproductive and irrelevant, the one saving grace being that the institutions that put on opera performances are largely not for-profit organizations. The profit is largely art as Peter Gelb says, and art as well as meta-theater as we’ve come to understand ‘it’ at least have the ability to be subversive, disruptive and occasionally transcendent. I’m not sure the same can be said of the various other forms of entertainment, because a lot of times they are really just manifestations of patriarchal social order and mass wealth masquerading as heroic athleticism and escapism. So yeah that’s kind of why I chose the basketball analogy, problematic as it may be.

      • 98rsd

        Sheer hypocrisy of attending a baseball game--because of Ebola? (The sound of a head shaking)

        • antikitschychick

          Not because of Ebola specifically. That was just an example. My point is that we live in a world that has major social, economic and cultural disparities and the gap between the privileged and the underprivileged is growing. This is obviously not something unique to modern society, it has certainly existed for several centuries throughout western and eastern civilization but I don’t think our ability to be cognizant of it has been so readily accessible as it is now with the advent of tv and the Internet. Hope that makes more sense and if it doesn’t, in my defense I am currently at Starbucks ordering coffee and I wrote that last comment last night like at 3 am. Sorry. lol.

  • vonessek

    I don’t know if opera fees for top singers (such as AN) are too small, but I know that the majority of singers around the world are paid too little. And yes, pop singers are paid obscene sums. What really gets on my nerves are crossover singers who profess their undying love for classical music; if they love it so much, why don’t they give 10% of their income to opera houses or musical schools?