Met Opera Talks Continue as Deadline Approaches

News   Met Opera Talks Continue as Deadline Approaches
With a deadline of July 31 approaching, negotiations between union officials and the Metropolitan Opera continue with little hope of resolution, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Peter Gelb
Peter Gelb

Contracts expire for 15 of the Met's 16 unions July 31, and the opera company's general manager, Peter Gelb, has advised union members to prepare for a lockout.

Gelb has cited ticket sales, rising operating costs and a depleted endowment as contributing to the financial problems. The Wall Street Journal reports that the orchestra union presented an 84-page proposal to Met officials July 25 which credited Gelb's leadership with the box-office decline and proposed $31 million in alternative cost savings.

Gelb, who has said he is seeking labor-cost savings of 16-17 percent, has received criticism from union leaders for his spending.

The union's proposals include decreasing the number of new productions, shortening rehearsals and lowering ticket prices. Additionally, the American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents singers, dancers and stage managers, presented a proposal for a series of two-percent raises over each of the next three years.

Union officials also said they had asked the New York attorney general to examine the Met's draws from its endowment, which the Met told the Journal stood at $267 million as of July 11, down from $305.8 million in July 2006. Gelb's proposal of high-deductible health plans received criticism, with chorus member Jean Braham telling the Wall Street Journal, "He doesn't want to help us maintain our instruments. We are the artists. We are the product. The fact that he accepts no responsibility and no accountability is just incredible to me."

Met chorus members "are among the highest-compensated artists in their field — a status that will not change as a result of the current contract negotiations. We hope that they will recognize the need to share in our institutionwide plan of cost controls to secure the future of our company," Met spokesman Sam Neuman told the Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal reports that full-time chorus members earned an average of $200,000 for the 2012-13 season, including revenue sharing from high-definition broadcasts and overtime from several operas that ran for more than four hours. Orchestra members that year had median earnings of about $191,000.

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