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Opera Watch: Is Peter Gelb Completely to Blame for the Metropolitan Lockout?

By Ian Holubiak i.holubiak@classicalite.com on Aug 12, 2014 02:27 PM EDT

With the Metropolitan Opera sliding down the slopes of bankruptcy, and with the possibility of closing its doors due to an inevitable lockout, Peter Gelb has come under serious heat.

And who can't blame him for squeezing labor costs of union workers to account for a deficit that he has had to acquire from various donors. These costs amount to somewhere near $150 million, and while it may be Gelb's job to do so, it doesn't seem like a good move on his part.

However, when reading more about the Met debacle, James Jorden at the New York Observer laid out the other side of the story, outlining the achievements that seem to be overlooked by the general public.

A few facts that respond accordingly to the fire engulfing Gelb indicate that he has acquired some serious accolades.

Since his first season in 2006-07, Gelb doubled the number of new productions the company presented to six or seven a year. Nonetheless, the quality of these productions falters on the scale (with production like Prince Igor and Parsifal offsetting Eugene Onegin, which flopped similarly to Faust).

And perhaps one of his most landmark achievements is spearheading the media department of the Met. With a new media initiative, Gelb has successfully captured a viewership of 3 million with simulcast performances, which is roughly four time the number of people who attend in-house performances.

The performances, then, are archived and repurposed, streamed online from the Met's online player and burned to DVDs as well as broadcasted by PBS.

He has even partnered with Sirius XM and coined a channel devoted strictly to live broadcasts. 

He even champions understudies (or "covers") by giving them a shot at the title role for some major productions. While the Met has premiered some of the most famous singers in the world, it isn't unlike Gelb to throw another star into the limelight on opening night. An admirable move, indeed.

But this doesn't offset some of the major debacles that Gelb has put on the company. Frivolous spending may not warrant a lockout for workers that account for some 20 percent of the Met's labor costs.

However you want to look at it, in the end, the most famous opera house in the world is in danger of closing, and that is a bigger tragedy than finding blame in this type of suit.

Here's a preview of the probable 2014-15 season. Solid performances could benefit the Met's attendance, so long as they don't flop.

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TagsPeter Gelb, The Metropolitan Opera, James Jorden, The New York Observer, Faust, Prince Igor, Parsifal, Eugene Onegin, Anna Netrebko

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