Peter Gelb, the General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera in NYC, has a salary of $1.49 million for his position at the Met. In a well-crafted PR statement, Gelb announced that he was forfeiting his salary for the current year due to the difficult times the Metropolitan Opera is facing financially. In part, he claimed this was due to the coronavirus spreading through the Metropolitan Opera and abroad, causing forced closures and shutdowns. While this is partly true, we need to properly access the situation and how Gelb is still benefiting more financially compared to his other colleagues and employees at the Met Opera.
Gelb announced that he was locking out stagehands and other artistic and technical workers at the Met and they have still not received sufficient pay or any resolution in sight to financial issues. If we consider the salary of stagehands and other artistic workers at the Met, they have a normal wage for the NYC area, but by no means is it exuberant or allows them the opportunities to indulge in ways that Peter Gelb has been able to. Many of the Met's stagehands and artistic workers are minorities and those who rely on the income for daily life. Gelb has been given a very large salary every year which equates to many millions of dollars, which he has had the opportunity to save a majority to put towards investments and financial planning. He is so well off that he could afford to completely forfeit his salary for an ENTIRE YEAR and it would still not affect him. He could afford to never be paid the rest of his life and he could still live an indulgent lifestyle, assuming he made typical investments as multi-millionaires are able to do.
Unlike Gelb, most workers at the Met do not have enough money to save, put large amounts towards investments, secure financial assets, and the like. They live pay-check to pay-check and heavily rely on their salary for the necessities of food, clothing, rent, transportation, and medical costs. So while it might seem like a great PR statement and an act of good will on Gelb's part to relinquish his salary for a year, the fact of the matter is that he is living in exuberance and indulgence while the Met Opera workers suffer as well as the organization as a whole.
If Gelb cared so much for his colleagues and employees instead of shutting down the Met Opera and refusing to pay critical staff including many minority workers, he would petition the government and local NYC to re-open arts organizations. In fact, with current mandates, the Met Opera is allowed to function if they wear masks and have certain sanitary procedures in place and have social distancing in the audience (seating 6 feet apart). If Gelb wanted to have live performances he could. He chooses not to and to cause everyone else to suffer at his negligence and cruelty.
Most are beginning to see Gelb for who he truly is and the world is watching to see what will be done about him and the state of the Metropolitan Opera hangs in the balance.
CURRENT STATE OF THE MET:
Currently, there is no resolution in sight. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which represents roughly 800 artistic and technical workers at the Metropolitan Opera, is warning in print and through social media that,
“Unless the Met’s management returns to the bargaining table and treats workers fairly, there will be no opera in 2021.”
The advertisements, in response to The Met’s December lockout of IATSE members, begin with the headline: “The Metropolitan Opera Without People Is Nothing.” The ads caution that without additional negotiations: “The Metropolitan Opera House will remain dark and quiet, a vacant warehouse.”
“Very few people were working at The Met in this period, barely affecting the bottom line,” said IATSE International President Matt Loeb. “Gelb is cruelly and cynically using the COVID-19 crisis as leverage to stab his workers in the back, cutting off their wages and healthcare payments during the pandemic and putting the future of the opera company in jeopardy.”