A Lockout in New York

Peter Gelb the Met’s president and CEO(Photo: Dario Acosta/Metropolitan Opera)
Peter Gelb the Met’s president and CEO(Photo: Dario Acosta/Metropolitan Opera)

The difficulties at New York’s Metropolitan Opera have moved into full operatic mode. 

Peter Gelb the Met’s president and CEO has written to the opera’s 1,000 employees indicating the organization will go into lockdown if negotiations with the it’s many unions do not result in substantial cuts and concessions by July 31. Salaries and benefits will stop for everyone in front of and behind the curtain.

There have been two lockouts at the Met in recent memory. The first in 1969 and the second in 1980. Gelb takes a terrible risk with this threat. Previously, even die-hard opera devotees found that their lives went on quite well without the Met. It takes years to win the box office back-and the Met is today in no position to turn away customers.

The unions are refusing substantial pay cuts, pointing to the millions of dollars lost by Gelb in has controversial stagings that have not attracted the public. Chief among them Wagner’s Ring cycle, as designed by Robert Lepage that cost millions. Unsold seats for the Ring used to be unheard of. Not anymore. The critics jeered and the public stayed away.

Likewise Gelb’s staging of Tosca, a minimalist nightmare complete with oral sex-tanked.

A field of onstage poppies for Borodin’s Prince Igor cost $150,000 for one scene. Beautiful, yes, but $150,000?

Nobody at the Met is going hungry. Choristers can earn $200,000 a year. Orchestra members more, and you don’t mess with International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE),  the union of stage and technical workers.

The threat of a lockout is the nastiest of tactics. The situation is inflamed enough, not helped by the rhetoric of union leader Alan Gordon.

And yes, there are the usual obnoxious  ”Fat Lady Won’t Sing” headlines. Ain’t nobody singing now. On Opening Night, September 21, we’ll see.