The Worst of Times: Now Metropolitan Opera to Cut Labor Salaries and Set Costs, Outraged Unions Await Negotiations

By Ian Holubiak on Mar 03, 2014 03:02 PM EST

Though classical and opera recordings may be staving off serious financial dread, at least for now, live performances have been taking a serious hit at the box office.

Specifically, the Metropolitan Opera is proposing in contract talks with union-represented workers to cut compensation, the first this has happened in decades.

"The Met recognizes that it, like other performing-arts companies, has a serious issue that has to be solved, which is bringing into balance its expenses and its revenues," says Peter Gelb, general manager.

"Clearly expenses have to be cut in order to provide a sustainable business model in the future," he continued.

The move comes after the board of the Met, in analyzing ticket sale trajectories (or lack there of), decided that they had tapped out their donors' ability to keep the company afloat.

Perhaps the gaudy, sensationalized set designs should be scaled back to compensate for the workers, no?

Two of the Met's biggest unions are pushing for an oversight role to pull back on what they see as wasteful spending for just that, except this applies mostly to costumes and the number of new productions--down to six originals instead of seven, not too drastic.

In Minnesota, their best orchestra recently ended a 15-month lockout with musicians, who ultimately took a 15% cut.

Now, the Met's 16 labor unions, whose contracts expire in July, are in for it.

"The arts are in transition, and we are seeing a great deal of pressure on costs," said Michael Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and founder of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management.

"It's going to be a very interesting time to see how these negotiations proceed," he continued.

Indeed, this should pan out for better or for worse, but arts lovers may see some backlash to the otherwise scornful dilemma of dealing with paycuts and overall decreased salaries.

As the end of the Met's 2013-14 season draws nigh, productions may not be as vibrant as the ones you see here.

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TagsThe Metropolitan Opera, Michael Kaiser, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, DeVos Institute of Arts Management, Peter Gelb, Minnesota Orchestra

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