If you haven’t taken the time to read James B. Stewart’s missive in the 3/23/2015 edition of The New Yorker about the Metropolitan Opera’s recent labor dispute and related political rapids, then you’re missing out. Yes, it is nearly 9000 words, but you’ll be glad you allocated the time.
Even if you’re already quite familiar with The Met’s recent rumble, the article goes a long way toward filling in some of the missing pieces which managed to stay out of the mainstream media, such as the degree of infighting among Met board members and how those power struggles and turf wars left money on the table over recent years.
Stewart doesn’t hold his punches when it comes to analyzing artistic highs and lows that ultimately became the centerpiece of the dispute, albeit to Met General Manager Peter Gelb’s chagrin.
The piece spends a too much time on certain key figures and misses out entirely on some of the genuine behind the scenes heroes (you know who you are), but given who those individuals are and the roles they played, it isn’t exactly surprising to see them missing from the article. In time, it will be interesting to see if historical accounts get updated with that info.
Likewise, the article glosses over some of the more fantastic behavior from the labor side of the equation such as the steady stream of verbal pyrotechnics from American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) National Executive Director Alan S. Gordon. Stewart’s article only references Gordon a handful of times and uses his position as a vehicle to highlight the shifting tide of scrutiny on Gelb’s leadership.
We also get to learn a bit more about the role of Eugene Keilin, the financial analyst who entered the process in the eleventh hour yet played a key role in pushing the institution back from the edge of thermonuclear labor war. There are no direct quotes from Keilin but Stewart does attribute a notable second hand reference that hints at my own VagueBook comments above.
The author keeps a safe distance from drawing any firm conclusions but there’s plenty of space between the lines to insert pretty much any perspective you feel most comfortable assigning. To that end, did you read the article; if so, what did you think and why?