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Metropolitan Opera Orchestra criticises Peter Gelb’s ‘runaway spending’

The orchestra is currently locked in a dispute over a potential 16 per cent wage cut

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, which is currently locked in a dispute over wage cuts, has released a report slamming general manager Peter Gelb for his ‘failed artistic vision’ and ‘runaway spending' on unpopular productions. Earlier this month Gelb warned that the New York company could face bankruptcy in two or three years if it does not cut the cost of orchestra and chorus wages by 16 per cent. The orchestra, in turn, has accused him of increasing the Met’s operating budget ‘by nearly 50 per cent’.

‘In 2005-06, Joe Volpe’s last season, the budget was $221.6 million,' the report states. '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. The lack of return on this sizable investment points to failed financial stewardship.

‘Over the past eight years, we feel this current management has demonstrated a failed artistic vision, something we quantify via Gelb-specific box office performance, his denigration of the art form of opera, his disparaging of our audience, and his runaway spending in the name of “New Productions” which have nothing whatsoever to do with the supposedly “increasing labor costs.” We believe that allowing this type of mismanagement to continue is the thing that truly would imperil the future of the Met.’

Read the full report here.

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