ICSOM Issues Statement Regarding Metropolitan Opera Musicians

By Francisco Salazar

The International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians! has released a statement regarding the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the company’s hiring of non-Met musicians.

In a statement, ICSOM noted, “There is no question that the Metropolitan Opera, in its nearly 140 years of existence, has set the world standard for operatic excellence and innovation. What CEO Peter Gelb is attempting—using the pandemic as surreptitious cover to cut wages, erode working conditions, and eviscerate union contracts—is reprehensible.”

“While the Met musicians and singers have been thrown to the curb for the past 10 months, the vast majority of our AFM orchestras, ballet companies, and opera associations—both in the US and Canada—have worked together to find compromise solutions to the terrible financial challenges the pandemic has set our industry. Considerable sacrifices have been made by both employees and managements across the country, but in nearly every orchestra we have found a path to maintain our musicians and to preserve our ties to the community and our audiences.”

The statement also said, “Not so the Met. Gelb has chosen this terrible moment in history to abandon the musicians and the Met’s mission: ‘…to present the highest quality performance of the opera repertory featuring the world’s most talented artists…’ Instead he is pursuing his long-standing agenda to demolish hard-won union contracts with utter disregard for the artistic consequences to the Met or to the lives and livelihoods of its employees.”

ICSOM also noted that the Met has been a pioneer in online content particularly its HD programs and questioned why the company has yet to use it especially since smaller companies with less experience have done so. ICSOM noted that using strict COVID protocols, other orchestras are presenting new virtual programming to their loyal patrons.

The organization concluded by noting that Gelb is abandoning his responsibility to his employees and deceiving the patrons and donors by “abandoning his own musicians and hiring non-Met musicians for virtual fundraising events.”

The statement comes weeks after the Metropolitan Opera’s New Year’s Eve gala which caused an uproar due to the company’s hiring of non-Met musicians. Since then the Orchestra has begun a fundraising campaign with Music Director Yannick Nezet-Seguin and his partner Pierre Tourville and Riccardo Muti has released a letter in support of the orchestra.