A Conversation with the Met’s Peter Gelb

Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb monitors the 'Live in HD' transmission
Peter Gelb hovers over the production crew during an HD cinemacast; photo by Ken Howard

General manager Peter Gelb first served the Metropolitan Opera as an usher. He was a teenager at the time, but soon transitioned into artist management under Sol Hurok, serving clients such as the Boston Symphony and Vladimir Horowitz. It was CAMI Video, his brainchild with Columbia Artists Management, however, that foreshadowed his most notable achievement to date: “The Met: Live in HD” series, which transmits live opera performances to movie theaters around the world.

Mr. Gelb cut his teeth in multimedia production in the 1980s running CAMI Video, a division he founded. There he produced telecasts from the Metropolitan Opera and directed a number of documentaries on major classical artists. He continued to pursue new media as president of Sony Classical, and expanded the label’s repertoire to include film scores and crossover projects (which usually meant classical musicians playing non-classical compositions). It was the famed soprano Beverly Sills, then chairperson of the board at Lincoln Center, who wooed him away from Sony.

Mr. Gelb took the reins of the Met in 2006; “The Met: Live in HD” followed almost immediately, exporting Met productions to movie theaters in 70 countries (now), and to an estimated 17 million theatergoers.

Ten seasons into the HD venture, Peter Gelb stops short of saying his signature initiative changed the business of opera. He maintains that what happens on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House is his first priority. Producing for HD is a separate process that gets “added on much later in the game.” When asked if HD is a consideration in finding new talent for his 300 million dollar opera company, he states: “What I look at … is the complete artistic package that a singer can deliver. … It is not a beauty contest in terms of casting at the Met; it is a contest of great artists.”

Hear the interview:


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