The Decline of The Metropolitan Opera Continues
I was alerted to a latest statement regarding the Met Opera situation in New York City this morning by persons (an associate of a personal friend) who are close to this dispute but who wish to remain anonymous. In as much as I can tell, the professor’s letter was passed on by a member of AGMA (American Guild of Musical Artists).
The fight between the Metropolitan Opera organization and the artists/unions has been ongoing and it’s been bloody. From this latest excerpt, it seems however, that not all voices on the matter are being heard. The New York Times apparently has refused to put this latest letter in print, for whatever reason, whether because of length or it didn’t fit some other criteria specified by the editor. The missive is nevertheless being passed around through social media channels far outside of the control of any media outlet or the Met itself.
So I’m giving Mr. Freedman his say. Here’s the reprint below.
As for myself, a lover of Opera and a former long time season regular MET audience member, veteran performer and as a Los Angeles theatre critic who holds art in the highest esteem, it saddens me tremendously, that such an iconic institution cannot keep its head above water and is sinking as fast as the Titanic without the ability to come to terms with its budget, its dedicated artists, its general manager and everyone involved… and most of all the audience. Opera is very much NOT dead. Even here in Los Angeles I’ve been seeing a resurgence of interest in Operettas, Rock Operas and Classics that capture the imagination of millennials and older generations in this modern century. That of course does not in any way compare to this particular situation or take into account the enormous expense needed to stage large productions of this scale. Both sides have their points. It’s a tough road for everyone. I’m just hoping for the best.
Come on MET Opera gang (all of you) find a solution! Let’s not lose this vital artistic medium or experience for generations to come.
Click here if you would like to read the New York Times coverage of the Metropolitan Opera so far: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/m/metropolitan_opera/index.html?inline=nyt-org
This letter to the NY Times was refused to be printed. It was in response to yesterday’s article. It deserves to be shared and posted.
Tue, 08 Jul 2014 10:36:28 -0400
Today’s article on the travails of the Metropolitan Opera clearly, but
implicitly, attributes its problems to excessive pay levels. Such
attributions often get favorable responses. This attribution is an
attempt by Met management to define its problems to be due to employee
pay levels as opposed to management errors. The Met management does not
seem to take any responsibility for its situation. It is much more
comfortable to blame others. Consider the issues confronting the Met on
a broader level. The pay scale at the Met is largely the same as when
it was in reasonably good financial condition several years ago. So why
does current pay levels cause such problems? The answer is that
attendance has been falling, and the article indicates a dramatic long
term decline. In fact , everything else being the same, if attendance
and donations were robust there would be no serious issue. This is not
to say that remuneration levels, including that of senior management is
not relevant. It is not the major issue. So what is the major reason
for the Met’s financial problems?
Mr. Gelb was hired, and accepted the challenge of increasing attendance
and developing a younger audience by producing new operas and
productions of past operas. This has not taken place. In fact, many of
the new productions have been poorly attended. Witness, for example,
the Wagner fiasco of the past season. What happens elsewhere in the
performing arts when productions do not satisfy reasonable economic
criteria? Focus is placed on the producer. What is happening at the
Met? The Met’s management has cleverly redefined the problem as high
pay. Yet if pay was reduced to the level proposed by management all
that would be accomplished is to put off the problem of declining
attendance caused by productions that on average are economic failures.
Unless and until the Met deals effectively with its major problem all
reduced remuneration will accomplish is delay its major problem: an
insufficient number of new operas and productions that people want to
see. That is just what Mr. Gelb was hired to do and, in fact, promised
but has not delivered.
Richard D. Freedman
Distinguished Service Professor of Management Emeritus
New York University
Leonard N. Stern School of Business
44 West Fourth Street
New York, NY 10012