Peter Gelb
(c) Lacombe /Metropolitan Opera

In a presentation to the Board of directors of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802, American Federation of Musicians, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra Committee speak about an « argument for the survival of the Met other than what you have heard from Peter Gelb ». They say: « (…) over the past several months we have been forced to ask ourselves: how can any manager of any operation can justify a nearly 50% increase in the budget without realizing a significant return on that investment? That is unjustifiable financial stewardship. Peter Gelb has repeatedly stated that he must achieve at least a 16% reduction in the ‘union costs’ in order to achieve a sustainable business model. To date, we have not been presented with any financial justification or business model explaining why a 16% cut of the current labor budget is necessary to cover a $2.8 million deficit. The 2012-2013 expenses were approximately $327 million. If two-thirds of that budget are ‘union costs,’ as Mr. Gelb maintains, that is over $218 million. Sixteen percent of that is nearly $35 million. Why does a $2.8 million problem need a $35 million solution? »

To better show Gelb’s mega budget in comparison to his predecessor’s, the musicians say: « In 2005-06, Joe Volpe’s last season, the budget was $221.6 million. The Met’s expenditures for 2012-2013 were $326.8 million, an increase of over $105 million. According to the Met’s financial statements, for which we have received only the years between 2006 and 2013, New Productions increased from $7.6 million to $21.8 million (the high was $24.3 million in 2012), a 220% increase. Production equipment increased from $5 million to $15.1 million, a 202% increase; trucking and storage increased from $1.6 million to $3.7 million, a 131% increase; and finally, ‘other’ increased from $2.7 to $8.7 million, a 222% increase. A similar analysis between seasons 2003-04 and 2011-12 reveals that spending on Performances actually decreased from 72% to 61% of the overall budget, while spending on Media, New Productions, and ‘Other’ grew dramatically. »

Furthermore the musicians that the weak box office results at the Met are not coming from new productions, but from revivals: « Gelb Production revivals are the main drag on the box office, and are the evidence of a failed artistic vision.(…) We see Peter Gelb’s artistic failure at the box office, combined with utter recklessness of his financial oversight of this organization, and therefore do not see it in the best interest of the Met to continue down this path. »


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