Saving the Met from Financial Collapse
Good Intentions, Gone Awry
Collaborative Solutions the Best Approach
An epic tragedy is unfolding at the Metropolitan Opera, but the drama isn’t onstage. Caught in a vortex of uncontrolled management spending, the Met faces a financial crisis of operatic magnitude.
As the realization of the economic meltdown at this great cultural treasure becomes increasingly evident, the Met’s leadership has begun pointing fingers, blaming the cost overruns of its untested new business model on the craftsmen, artists and technicians who make the Met productions sing.
Instead of seeking collaborative solutions, management is pointing the finger of “blame” at the Met’s backstage stars, many of whom have made the Opera their life’s work.
The Fault Lies Not in the Stars Backstage
Truth is, the Met’s world-class experts in stagecraft range don't make a fortune, especially for people who work and live in New York City, and a far cry from the $1.4 million that the man in charge got in 2012.
In other words, the Met doesn’t have a labor-cost problem; it’s got a management-spending problem.
Much of the increased cost in the Met’s budget comes from an ever-expanding number of expensive new shows that the Opera is producing each year, many of which don’t generate large audiences.
In simple terms, while the leadership of the Met wants to build the Rolls Royce of Opera, it can only really afford a Cadillac.
A Brave New Opera World
Opera has changed more in the past dozen years than during the previous 300, and today, world-class stagecraft plays a more significant role than ever in producing quality performances.
As in all industries, technology has had a major impact on both the opera product and its cost, challenging the people behind the curtain to find creative ways to make it all work, despite increased production demands and expanded workloads.
The Met’s own transition over the past few years exemplifies these sweeping technological changes: translated dialogue scrolling digitally; HD cameras broadcasting productions; and satellites transmitting programming far and wide. Each of these new approaches requires changes in staging, set design, costuming and makeup to bring it all to life on far-off movie screens as well as on the New York stage.
Rather than value the innovations and creative solutions that these world-class artisans are prepared to offer in bargaining to help solve the self-imposed problems of the new production model, the man who makes over a million dollars a year running the opera is pushing these gifted backstage artists to accept drastic changes to their compensation.
It’s a management melodrama unworthy of the Met’s great tradition of collaboration throughout the ranks.
Everyone that performs backstage at the Met understands the financial realities facing the Opera and in the past has provided economic relief to the organization in a number of ways, including wage freezes.
These hard working, dedicated people also understand the need to grow the audience. Indeed, the stars of backstage have helped facilitate the radical changes created by the Met’s untested new business model in order to keep this great tradition alive.
Moreover, decades of experience empowers them to understand
better than anyone how the sweeping production changes initiated by the man in charge are radically altering the scope and cost of operations, effectively putting the Met on the proverbial road to a hellish financial crisis, albeit with good intentions.
So, as collective bargaining begins, scapegoating the hard working men and women that have dedicated their lives to this art form won't fix the Metropolitan Opera's problems.
Unless something is done soon to rein in management’s wildly costly new vision, the final curtain may fall at the Met, through no fault of those who’ve kept it thriving for generations.