Editorial: Updated With Retraction – Peter Gelb Must Apologize to John Copley Lest He Damage Credibility in #MeToo Movement

By David Salazar

Editorial Note: Per a recent report from the New York Times, Copley’s remarks were aimed at the chorister and were largely inappropriate. Of course, the dispute rages and there seems to be much debate about who or what was said. Some of our own investigation has yielded similar contradiction. As such, we do note that until the clarity of the situation comes fully to light, the contents of this editorial might not be valid. It would be irresponsible not to issue this statement, even though we are aware that many would like for us to take a more definitive stance on the situation. But given the gravity of the situation,  the overall lack of clarity on the events, and our responsibility to our readers, we simply cannot. As such it is OperaWire that must issue an apology to the Met Opera and its general manager Peter Gelb, who is openly criticized in this article. The article remains in full so our readers can dissect our original point of view.  

We all know the story of the boy who cried wolf. The first time he does it, everyone believes him. Ditto the second.

But by the third, no one cares. And he gets disemboweled by a wolf.

That’s where the Met is right now with its John Copley situation. And that’s why it MUST not only issue an apology to John Copley, but also rescind his firing.

Let’s put some context into the situation.

We are in the midst of a widespread #MeToo and #TimesUp campaign, a necessary and essential movement to alter the gender politics of the world. It is essential that those who make inappropriate comments or gestures toward others be made responsible for their lack of respect.

We all know the James Levine situation, a debacle that the Met is reeling from, mainly because it isn’t something that happened yesterday. It’s been ongoing for decades and the organization did nothing to act on the situation, thinking instead of backing its posterboy.

But in today’s social climate, the Met and general manager Peter Gelb could only look on helplessly as the Levine situation smeared the prestigious organization’s credibility in the opera world.

But now the Copley situation might be even more embarrassing. Let’s review the facts. Per a report from Slipped Disc, a chorus member felt uncomfortable about Copley jokingly stating that he wanted to see the ghost of Assur” naked when they were thinking through how to react to the apparition in “Semiramide.” Gelb was notified and Copley was quickly told to leave.

Is Gelb’s reaction in some way an attempt to compensate for the lack of action in the Levine situation? It might just be the situation, thought Gelb is not one to disclose the reasons for his actions. Nor should he. But he is to be held responsible for them. Not only at the Met, but at the world at large.

And it is because of this that the public and perhaps even some of his own employees (just look at social media to see the overwhelming support for Copley) will judge him on the legacy of this particular moment.

Let’s break down why an apology is essential at this moment.

1. You apologize because it is the right thing to do and Copley did nothing that can be called sexual harassment, abuse, or even misconduct. If what he did was misconduct, then we should just fire everyone on the planet right now and move on. That is my opinion, of course.

If someone was offended by this comment, that is the kind of thing you take the guy aside and talk it over with him. You ask him to be diligent and careful considering the climate. And then you move on.

2. But you also apologize because you are endangering the credibility of the #MeToo movement in your own organization. If you equate Copley’s actions with someone making obscene or inappropriate gestures toward someone else then it becomes a mockery. It becomes the boy who cried wolf and no one is going to take you seriously when, and it WILL happen, a bigger name domino has to fall.

Let’s put this into perspective. The Levine situation is not an isolated issue and to think so would be naïve at best and disingenuous and stupid at worst. Look at Zeffirelli. Look at the Swedish women taking charge. There is definitely more to come.

So, there is no doubt that at some point in the near future, some big-name opera star, performing or retired, will be brought up in the public court on his past sins.

And if the Met is forced to address that issue in house, how does Gelb’s track record help him in making a decision in the public view? Will people start questioning whether this is a Copley or Levine situation? You don’t want to start comparing how you handled the two. In one, you remained silent and people are viewing it as careless and callous. In the other, you took swift action that is being seen as careless. In both, you are being careless. In neither has Gelb come out looking good.

He might not find redemption here if he apologizes, but he might at least gain respect for doing what good leaders do – own up to their mistakes.

Gelb has to think about the Metropolitan Opera as an institution first and foremost. It’s legacy. It’s image. At the end of the day, he has to keep the company alive and well. That is his responsibility.

It will be harder to uphold that if people are wavering in their trust for the organization.

So it’s time to apologize to John Copley and offer him his job back. It’s the right thing to do.