Orchestra Members Fire Back at Metropolitan Opera’s Decision to Hire Non-Met Musicians for Virtual Gala

By David Salazar
(Credit: © Emmanuelle Ayrton)

The Met Orchestra Musicians have issued a statement in response to the Metropolitan Opera’s decision to utilize European musicians for its upcoming gala showcase.

In the statement, the musicians noted that they have been unpaid for 10 months and that the Met’s actions have been an “outlier” in the industry.

“Every other major orchestra has been compensated since the very beginning of the pandemic. Met management is using the pandemic opportunistically. They are not seeking a short-term crisis-plan to balance out pandemic circumstances. They are seeking permanent cuts. The cuts they seek are so deep that the orchestra would need unrealistic salary gains over the next quarter-century just to get back to current salaries,” says the statement.

The statement proceeds to note that the members of the Met Orchestra have made several attempts to work with the Met and find some compromise but have been repeatedly rebuffed by Met management.

“The orchestra has made a comprehensive proposal that provides substantial savings to the Met for three years, but they have yet to respond to our proposal, while continuing to insist that they will not consider anything but permanent changes to our contract,” continues the statement.

The statement then shifted its focus to the Met Opera’s decision to hire non-Met Musicians for its New Year’s Eve gala in Germany.

“There is no reason why these gala events need to take place in Europe. There are star singers on American soil too (examples: Matthew Polenzani and Angel Blue – both flown to Germany for the Met gala – also Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, Isabel Leonard, Christine Georke, Eric Owens, to name a few…) and we can work together to showcase the Met, while helping each other in the process,” concluded the statement. “This does not need to be so financially devastating to the orchestra, nor so contentious and heartless — that is the choice of Met management.”

The statement was released alongside a cartoon featuring concertmaster Benjamin Bowman holding up the Metropolitan Opera House with a “Now Hiring: Non-Met Musicians for Met Stars Series” tag. “Hmmmm I don’t hear anything,” reads the cartoon.

The Metropolitan Opera’s New Year’s Eve gala will feature Angel Blue, Matthew Polenzani, Javier Camarena, and Pretty Yende live from Germany.

OperaWire has reached out to the Metropolitan Opera for comment and will update this story when or if there is a response.