Filed Under:

War Of Words At Met Opera May Signal Shutdown

Play associated audio

When an opera company is in the midst of contentious labor negotiations, the results can be dramatic. This week, the war of words between unions and management at New York's Metropolitan Opera, the world's largest opera company, escalated. An Aug. 1 shut down now seems likely.

At the center of the debate is the ballooning Met budget, which stood at $200 million in 2006 but has since climbed to more than $325 million. Met General Manager Peter Gelb asserts that union salaries and benefits are his biggest costs, accounting for two-thirds of the operating budget.

The Met's orchestral musicians get paid more than any other orchestra members in the U.S., and its stagehands and choristers are among the best paid in the world. Management's proposal to rein in rising costs does not include cutting base salaries, but instead cutting about 16% of workers' total compensation by changing work rules governing overtime payments, as well as trimming health benefits and pensions.

But the unions blame Gelb for the rising deficits, saying he has been irresponsible in his spending and accusing him of increasing his salary while asking them to accept reductions. Alan Gordon of the American Guild of Music Artists says Gelb has doubled the number of new productions since taking over: "There are so many, in fact, that the employees made twice their salary in just the overtime necessary to deal with the new productions."

"No matter how you slice it," Gelb says, "opera is incredibly expensive." Earned income, he says, has not kept pace with rising costs.

Negotiations are slated for next week. If agreements aren't reached, Gelb has warned the unions to prepare for a lockout.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit


An Exuberantly Dark First Novel Explores The Chaos Of Central Africa

Fiston Mwanza Mujila's novel, Tram 83, is a freewheeling tale about life in an imaginary place inspired by the author's home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Critic John Powers has a review.
WAMU 88.5

Marion Nestle: "Soda Politics: Taking On Big Soda (And Winning)"

Changing public attitudes have led to a decline in U.S. soda sales. But health expert Marion Nestle believes many people still consume unhealthy amounts of sugary drinks. She argues beverage companies are spending millions on research that misleads consumers.


Sen. Harry Reid Sues Makers Of Exercise Band Over His Injuries

The Senate minority leader and his wife are seeking more than $50,000 in damages over what they say is a defective resistance band that caused him to lose sight in his right eye, among other injuries.

How Skyscraper Construction Ties Into Tech Bubbles

There's a lot of talk in Silicon Valley about a tech bubble.Our Planet Money podcast team examines one possible indicator of a bubble: architecture. Very, very tall architecture.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.