What is the true deficit in the Met’s financial crisis?

It occurs to me that when an organization bleeds money such is claimed at the Met, the focus is to stop the bleeding, not to fix the actual cause of the bleeding…

leadership quoteThe deficit or wound that starts the bleeding is the lack of true and effective leadership.  That is what needs to be fixed first.

Two sentences in the recent interview of the Met’s Peter Gelb as reported here by the Associated Press sum it up:

The people who work here are incredibly professional,” he said. “I admire them greatly and we had great mutual respect for each other, up until I asked them for a pay cut.

“Once the dust settles,” he added, the musicians “don’t have to love me to play well.”

This just took everyone’s breath away, but for me it was not the stupidity and callousness of the statement, but the signal that Gelb is now giving up the leadership of the Met and instead is trying to become its ruler.  Notice it is “I” and “me”.  Show of hands how many artists and technical personnel at the Met come to work out of “respect” for Peter Gelb, or when the lights go down EVER consider not working, playing or singing well?  Right none, because they were all professionals long before he got there and they serve the audience, the art, their colleagues, the institution…not him!  He has inserted himself as the dictator that now believes he is the reason for everything…..well that is except how this situation occurred in the first place…strangely not accepting any responsibility for that, but that is the classic sign of a dictator in our midst.   Plus the idea that this is a mere “dust” storm as if he is just brushing aside the fact that he wants to cut the pay (or stop it completely) for those who live and work in just about the most expensive city to live in the world, is no big deal because he doesn’t care how they feel about him.  We are talking about the best of the best here, this is the pinnacle and you are basically calling them out by saying oh I’m reducing your pay, but I know you will perform at your best for your supreme leader who just beat the crap out of you….in public! I wonder what his answer would be if he was asked if he was performing at his best, or if he believes making public threats is professional?

From the article:

Last season the company reported a deficit of $2.8 million on a budget of more than $300 million, of which more than $200 million went for pay and benefits to the Met’s unions and its principal singers.

That deficit might not sound like a lot, but Gelb said it “could have easily been $20 million to $30 million if I had not been calling up our donors and getting them to fill the gap.”

Oh I’m sorry is it not in your job description (that you get paid $1.4M to do) to call up donors?  Is that a little inconvenient and cutting in to your “now how can I set Turandot in an iPhone factory” time?  If he had done his job just a little bit better, then there would be no deficit, because on a budget of $300M, $2.8M is not a lot!  Certainly not enough to close it down.  The fact that two thirds of the budget is spent on personnel is as it should be, the most money should always be spent on who makes an organization “sing”.

A true leader is an enabler, a convener, a negotiator, and someone who sees respect not as mutual but as historic in that as the temporary caretaker for one of the great arts organizations of the world, taking multiple trajectories or pathways and bringing people together with humility to maintain, preserve and develop the institution is a COLLECTIVE mission.  Or as a bottom line way to put it:  This is the Met, the administration should be tailored to the Met, not the other way round.  He is exactly the wrong person to lead this organization!

4 thoughts on “What is the true deficit in the Met’s financial crisis?”

  1. Well said. As a citizen of the Twin Cities, we know what happens when an administrator is convinced that he is what makes the organization “sing”. Egos need to be put in a safe when one leads.

  2. Standing up and applauding this post. Thank you! Even though I don’t live in NYC, having just endured the brutal lockout of the MN Orchestra, I cannot bear to think of the hardship that would be borne by the Met Opera musicians/stagehands in the event of a lockout there.

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