Canadian conductor and Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, has formally spoken out about the Met’s treatment of its orchestra and chorus since the start of the pandemic last year. As reported yesterday in the New York Times, the 2020 Opera Canada Awards, ‘Ruby’ honouree sent a letter to leaders at the Met on Thursday saying it is “increasingly unacceptable” that one of the country’s top orchestras and choruses has gone without pay since last April.
The core artists of the Met’s orchestra and chorus have been furloughed since April 2020, and only just this week, have received their first partial pay cheque since that date. The NYT obtained a copy of Nézet-Séguin’s letter, confirmed by its recipients who included Met General Manager Peter Gelb, teams negotiating on behalf of the artists as well as company Board members.
Throughout the pandemic the Met has been roundly criticized in the media for not taking care of their resident artists, and for using the situation as a tool to negotiate new contracts with lower salaries. Nézet-Séguin has also come under fire, in a leadership position that has put him in a difficult place, situated as he is between his musicians and ‘management’.
As part of the Met’s top level management team, Nézet-Séguin’s letter firmly establishes him as an advocate for the company’s musicians and singers despite his administrative role. In his letter he acknowledged, “Of course, I understand this is a complex situation, but as the public face of the Met on a musical level, I am finding it increasingly hard to justify what has happened.”
The Met has responded saying they “share Yannick’s frustration over the lengthy closure and the impact it has had on our employees” and that they are “working together for new agreements that will ensure the sustainability of the Met into the future.”