NEW YORK: Metropolitan Opera Board to Have a New President

New York City Metropolitan Opera, Auditorium

The Metropolitan Opera, which has been grappling with serious financial challenges, will soon have a new president of its board of directors.

The current president and chief executive of the board, Kevin W. Kennedy, has decided not to stand for re-election at the Met’s annual meeting in May, and the board’s executive committee has recommended Judith-Ann Corrente be nominated to succeed him, according to an email sent to board members on Friday afternoon that was obtained by The New York Times.

The changing of the guard is being made as the board embarks on a new campaign to double the size of the Met’s endowment fund, which was been weakened by larger-than-usual withdrawals in recent years and is now smaller than a single year’s operating budget.

Ms. Corrente, who is the co-chairwoman of the Met’s new fund-raising campaign, joined its board in 2007 and currently serves as its secretary. Mr. Kennedy, a former Goldman Sachs executive, has been the president of the board since 2011, leading during a tumultuous time in which the Met, facing big expenses and weakened box office receipts, turned to its workers for concessions.

“After standing with management and my fellow board members through the historic negotiations of this past summer, it is time for me to pass the leadership baton,” Mr. Kennedy said in a statement in which he expressed support for Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager.

Ann Ziff will remain the chairwoman of the Met’s board.

The Met, the nation’s largest performing arts organization, faces big challenges. Its deficit swelled to nearly $22 million last year on an operating budget of $315 million. While the Met has become a prodigious fund-raising machine in recent years, its board members warned last year that donations could not continue to rise faster than the company’s costs.

After acrimonious labor talks, the company’s orchestra, chorus and other unionized workers all accepted their first pay cuts in decades, but the cuts were not as deep as those that were initially sought by management. In the fall some of the Met’s top stars including Anna Netrebko, Joyce DiDonato, Plácido Domingo and Renée Fleming agreed to voluntarily cut their fees to help the company in its moment of need.

Mr. Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said in an interview that the company was on target to have a balanced budget this year. He praised Mr. Kennedy for his work on behalf of the Met during the past four seasons. “These years, with the added pressure that is on grand opera, maybe every year should count for two,” Mr. Gelb said.

Even with all the cost-cutting, financial risks remain. The Met has once again had to use the enormous Chagall paintings that hang behind its famous arched windows as collateral to secure its line of credit with Bank of America. And Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the company’s credit rating in December, citing the company’s “weakened financial profile.”

The Met is hardly alone: A number of opera companies around the nation and the world have struggled recently, including New York City Opera, which declared bankruptcy and closed; the San Diego Opera, which threatened to shut down last spring but was revived after an outcry; and several European companies that have seen cuts to the government subsidies they rely on.

Mr. Kennedy has been nominated to become an honorary director of the board. In his statement he praised Mr. Gelb for “maintaining the Met’s high artistic quality and giving close attention to its financial challenges.”

Ms. Corrente also serves on the boards of the Lawrenceville School, the Lang Lang International Music Foundation and Emily’s List.

William C. Morris, the chairman of the executive committee of the Met’s board, praised both of them in the email that was sent Friday afternoon to board members.

“We offer our thanks to Kevin for his years of dedicated service on the board and, in particular, for steering us successfully through the most recent union negotiations,’’ he wrote, “and our appreciation to Judith for her willingness to help guide the Met forward in the coming years.”


Article by, Michael Cooper, The New York Times

Posted in: pre17 on July 3, 2015 by...