At the Met: lower fees for principals

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John F
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At the Met: lower fees for principals

Post by John F » Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:09 am

Met Asks Stars to Share Fiscal Pain
By MICHAEL COOPER
NOV. 12, 2014

The Metropolitan Opera, whose financial struggles led it to cut the pay of its orchestra, chorus, stagehands and other workers last summer after a labor battle, said Wednesday that it was also asking its solo singers voluntarily to lower their fees, including some of opera’s biggest stars.

The Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, sent a letter on Wednesday to its soloists asking them to cut their pay by up to 7 percent to match the reductions that the Met’s chorus and orchestra agreed to — or to make a tax-deductible contribution to the company of an equivalent amount. He wrote that some of the Met’s most popular stars had already volunteered to accept the cuts, including Anna Netrebko, Joyce DiDonato, Plácido Domingo and Renée Fleming.

“I hope you will join your colleagues in helping the Met stay strong in the coming seasons,” Mr. Gelb wrote in the letter, which is being sent to singers, conductors, directors, designers and choreographers. “However, whatever you ultimately decide, the decision is entirely yours to make.” He added, “I want to assure you that whatever your decision it will have no bearing whatsoever on your future work at the Met, since all casting decisions will be made solely on the basis of our artistic judgment.”

The voluntary cuts, which are being sought from the remainder of the current season through 2017-18, are the latest effort by the Met to reduce its costs at a time when its box office has been struggling, its endowment has dropped, and its budget has grown to more than $300 million a year.

After contentious labor talks last summer, workers at the Met agreed to accept salary cuts, and the Met’s management agreed to match the labor savings on the administrative side, eliminating 22 jobs in September, mostly through layoffs. On top of that, the Met’s management agreed to reduce expenditures by another $11.25 million in each of the next four years. Mr. Gelb said in the letter that the voluntary cuts would not count toward that goal but would help the company get on a more solid fiscal footing.

In recent seasons, the top fee an artist could make at the Met has been $17,000 a performance; with a 7 percent reduction, that would come to $15,810.

The Met asked artists voluntarily to reduce their fees a few seasons ago during the recession. Mr. Gelb said in an interview that while that earlier request had met with “some success,” he believed that the current request would get a more sympathetic hearing, now that the Met’s unionized workers have agreed to cuts, and the company’s fiscal challenges are more widely known. “It’s an attempt to enlist the participation of the entire Met artistic community in our efforts to cut costs,” he said.

In past decades, stars have agreed to accept less pay to help the Met. The tenor Enrico Caruso, a huge box office draw and the company’s biggest star in the early 20th century, voluntarily capped his Met fee at $2,500 a performance, which was less than he could have earned at some other houses. (Of course, his fees would be worth many times that in today’s dollars, and would exceed the top fees paid today.) And during the Great Depression, the Met’s general manager, Giulio Gatti-Casazza, persuaded most of the company’s artists to agree to cuts to save the company. All agreed, he later wrote in his memoir, except the tenor Beniamino Gigli.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/13/arts/ ... pain-.html
John Francis

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