WARNING: This post contains some of the most beautiful music there ever was.
Monday was a perfect example of idiot conservatives making idiots of themselves. No wonder we sometimes have a bad reputation. I am beginning to suspect some of it is richly deserved.
EXHIBIT #1: NYC Stagehands
Upfront: The Pink Flamingo does not approve of unions. I think they are inflationary, and basically criminal. I also am well aware what stage hands do at the Metropolitan Opera. Their job is highly technical, critical, and there would be no show without them. It is that simple. In a world where the stars sign autographs and pose for photos, grace the cover of multi-national publications, there would be no show without the stage-hand.
The Pink Flamingo is beginning to wonder what kind of tea these partiers are drinking. If they were eating “brownies” we know what is in them. These folks are not quite sober or rational. It all began with an article in the NYTimes about union wages in NYC for stagehands at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. Naturally the far right is using it as a way to pound the unions.
“…What they do is essential but unremarkable. Turns out that it is remarkably well-paid, however. Would you believe $422,599 a year? Plus $107,445 in benefits and deferred compensation?…Four other guys, two of them carpenters, two electricians, are paid somewhat lesser amounts, ranging down to $327,257, plus $76,459 in benefits and deferred compensation, for the junior member of the team, John Goodson, an electrician…. Gillinson, who doubles as artistic director, was paid $946,581, nearly twice as much as O’Connell, the props manager, but not out of line for top arts executives in Manhattan.
The Carnegie stagehands’ pay was something else again, but not, as it turns out, unique. At Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, the average stagehand salary and benefits package is $290,000 a year….
Across the plaza at the Metropolitan Opera, a spokesman said stagehands rarely broke into the top-five category. But a couple of years ago, one did. The props master, James Blumenfeld, got $334,000 at that time, including some vacation back pay….That means that a substantial portion of the sums we pay for tickets is going for stagehand pay, even as we are asked to increase contributions to make up for recession deficits.
Sir Clive Gillinson, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II four years ago, says Carnegie Hall’s five high-paid stagehands are the only permanent stagehands the building has. Hiring part-timers on a permanent basis is impractical, he says, because the number and types of productions cannot be predicted from year to year.
He also maintains that it would be no less expensive to hire other stagehands to fill in as needed for the permanent five. The work has to be done, for three stages, with 800 events a season, and it requires expertise and experience.
The five men practically live in the building in season, often working from 8 a.m. to past midnight. Their average workweek is 80 hours. After 40 hours, the pay goes up to time-and-a-half, then to double or triple time. They get extra pay for recordings made in the hall.
However, given the accommodations that members of other unions are making in the recession, on both sides of the Hudson and nationally, it would seem that the stages of Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center could be adequately served by men paid less than $300,000 to $500,000 a year….”
Take Hyscience (please) which is usually fairly rational. When those Long Island Iced Teas are circulated… well?
While the Metropolitan Opera does receive some funding from NYC, its principle funds come from the endowment, ticket sales, and private donations. Hyscience thinks stage hands aren’t worth what they are being paid in NYC. This following is the story of one of them – Joe Volpe:
“…Named general manager in 1990, Joe Volpe, who began work at the Met in 1964 as an apprentice carpenter, led the Metropolitan Opera into a new century. Under his watch the Met strengthened its position, financially and artistically, at a time when other major opera companies around the world were struggling. Thus, Volpe became the most powerful man in opera, and his job the most coveted. When Lincoln Center began to make plans for a $1.5 billion renovation, Volpe and the Metropolitan Opera Association were in a position in January 2001 to withdraw from the project and begin their own renovation plans, which would include expanding the Met’s lobby. Despite being the largest and richest occupant, contributing 30 percent of Lincoln Center’s shared operating costs (and receiving 30 percent of common revenues), the Metropolitan Opera had no more say in the renovations than the smallest of the Center’s 12 constituent groups. Volpe’s surprise notice of resignation to Lincoln Center came just a week after the city committed $240 million to the project. Although the relationship between the Met and Lincoln Center had been occasionally contentious over the years, a 99-year lease would likely insure that the two parties would work out the details over the renovations. In any case, the Metropolitan Opera Association had reached a mature enough state to fund whatever work that needed to be done. Its financial outlook, at least in the near term, appeared quite solid….”
Ahearn’s article is a bit disgusting and is so very patronizing. Yes, it’s a heck of a lot of money, but people are allowed to make money. They are making doctor money. So what? They do the electrical wiring, computer wiring, sound, electronics, microphones, not to mention stage setting. They may not have Ivy League diplomas on their walls, but I suspect their jobs are just as critical as some number’s cruncher on Wall Street.
Over the years The Pink Flamingo had donated a nice amount to the Metropolitan Opera. I know a little about how it works and what is involved in keeping the company active. I am a huge fan of the Met. When the far right minions at Hyscience imply that the men and women who work as stagehands at the Met are not worth the union pay the get, I’m sorry, it is yet another case of Conservatives Making Fools of Themselves!
This is the PRIMARY way the Met establishes its funding:
“…The Metropolitan Opera could find itself the unexpected beneficiary of a multimillion-dollar gift under the unusual terms of a Washington, D.C., heiress’s donation, according to several people familiar with the matter.
Betty Brown Casey’s donations to the Washington National Opera’s endowment came with a stipulation: Should that company fail to remain independent, the funds would be rescinded—and transferred to the Met.
That day could be on the horizon: The National Opera is in merger talks with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.
According to a person familiar with the matter, donations made by Mrs. Casey, the National Opera’s life chairman, constitute between one-half and two-thirds of the National Opera’s total endowment, which was $30.5 million at the end of its 2009 fiscal year. That would make the amount of the Met’s potential windfall between $15 million and $20 million.
A lawyer for Mrs. Casey, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., referring to the opera, said: “I’m confident that they will abide by their written agreements.”
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the National Opera reiterated the sentiment. “Washington National Opera is grateful for the generosity of all of its donors, and abides by all terms related to all gifts,” said Michelle Pendoley.
Kennedy Center spokesman John Dow said he was unaware of any stipulations, and declined to comment further.
Through a spokesman, the general manager of the Met, Peter Gelb, declined to comment. The Met’s endowment at the end of fiscal year 2009 totaled $247 million, and the gift—if transferred—would represent a much-needed injection of funding for the company, which has been hammered by the recession. Its net assets declined 38% in the 2009 fiscal year….”
Hyscience refers to a Beltway Confidential piece.
There is a bottom line here. Without the much maligned stage-hand none of the above music would even be possible. If you ask this opera fan, they are worth every cent. Without the stagehand who is allegedly paid too much, there would be no Metropolitan Opera. Without the Met there would be less beauty in the world.
The following clips all originate at the Met from live performances. If there were no stagehands, the greatest, most magnificent voice there ever was would not have been able to produce this …. magnificence. (NOTE: The above clip from Tosca is NOT from the Met. Because it is my favorite piece of opera, I left it).