DW: The latest labor talks have gotten off to a contentious start. Unions are preparing for a possible lockout next season. Does this off-stage drama represent a crisis more serious than the Metropolitan Opera has seen before?
[The Met General Manager] Peter Gelb: Well, what I'm trying to do is avoid a crisis. The reason that we are asking our unions for the first time in decades for a concession in terms of their wages is because I'm trying to avoid the situation that has become prevalent in the non-profit performing arts world - particularly with opera companies in recent months and years -where companies are facing extinction because of an unsustainable business model.
When I first came to the Metropolitan Opera in 2006, I was aware of the problems and the financial challenges. But I hoped that it would be possible to earn our way out of these financial challenges by increasing ticket sales and by launching our very successful movie theater showings. But in the last few years, it's become obvious that in spite of our successes, the audience for opera is not increasing. Even though we have millions of people watching us in movie theaters, the audience in the opera house is not increasing, and the expenses continue to increase.
We are at a point where we have an unsustainable cost structure.
....The basic operating costs in the Metropolitan Opera are slightly over $300 million per year. This year, it's about $310 million. Two-thirds of those costs - $200 million - are being spent on union labor and visiting artists as well. So, two-thirds of our budget are going to unions through wages and social benefits.So naturally the unions are threatening to go on strike. That'll really bring in the customers.