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  • Writer's pictureZach Finkelstein

Laid off, Unpaid Met Opera Artists Donate Their Time to Star-Studded Online Gala

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

This week, the Metropolitan Opera announced an ‘At-Home Gala’, its flagship online fundraiser to “support the company and protect its future”. General Manager Peter Gelb and Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin will host the event, to be streamed on April 25th from the Met Opera’s website.

The Met aims to fundraise $60 million to cover its losses in the 2019-2020 season.

At the gala, 44 Metropolitan opera stars have agreed to remotely appear, including

· Soloists who took voluntary pay reductions to “save the Met” in 2014 and 2015;

· Soloists who appeared without compensation in the recent HD broadcasts on the Met opera website;

· And soloists who were recently laid off by the company, who were informed of cancelled contracts via Tweet.

Gelb was quoted in a recent article, one that claimed artists are "stuck at home with time on their hands" as saying, "They’re available since they’ve nothing else to do. A few of them said to me this will give them a reason to start practicing.”

Artists interviewed were sympathetic to the financial struggles of the soloists involved: one called it "Stockholm syndrome".

A former Met artist expressed dismay at the company's treatment of its soloists, but felt warmed by the generosity of the singers involved: “it is extraordinary to see, despite the way the Met handled its cancellation, despite all of that, these artists are willing to donate their time, willing to help stabilize the finances of a company that has treated them this way.”

Another artist was surprised at the audacity of management: “I can’t imagine my boss laying me off and then asking me to appear in the company’s promo video.” Three Met gala artists pushed back on the characterization of Met artists as victims, including Michael Fabiano. The tenor said, "I disagree that this gala exploits talent and work. I don't feel exploited and nor do many of my colleagues performing on it. We are showing the US and the lyric world that opera lives on and that we are ready to serve when the lights come back on."

Middleclassartist reached out to the Met’s PR team for comment, and asked, “what percentage of the funds raised by this gala will be earmarked for relief to laid-off Met artists?” As of Friday, April 17th, the Met has not provided an answer to this question.

Multiple soloists confirm that the Met opera stars engaged for the ‘At-Home Gala’ will not be paid.

One Met chorister confirms that both the orchestra and the chorus will not be paid for the April 25th gala.

The Met gala is “generously sponsored” by Rolex.


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