Peter Gelb, the president of the Sony Classical record label since 1995, will succeed Joseph Volpe as general manager of the Metropolitan Opera in 2006, the Met announced yesterday.
Gelb, 51, who was the executive producer of the Met's television programs and responsible for its radio broadcasts from 1987 to 1993, will work with Volpe for a transitional year beginning in August and then will assume full responsibilities when Volpe retires in the summer of 2006. No details were released as to the terms or duration of Gelb's contract.
The names of some other candidates, including the Washington Opera's Placido Domingo, had been mentioned prominently in recent days. But Gelb's association with the Met is a long and deep one, dating back to his teen years, when he worked there as an usher. He later served as an assistant manager of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and then as a vice president of Columbia Artists Management, where his clients included the late conductor Herbert von Karajan and the late pianist Vladimir Horowitz.
"There is no cultural institution that I respect or love more than the Metropolitan Opera," Gelb said yesterday. "I have known or worked with all the general managers of the Met since Rudolf Bing, including Joseph Volpe, whom I greatly admire. These are big shoes to fill and I am thrilled by this challenge."
In fact, the association between Volpe and Gelb was not always a smooth one. The two men once nearly came to blows, as relayed in Johanna Fiedler's book "Molto Agitato: The Mayhem Behind the Music at the Metropolitan Opera." "As president of CAMI Video, [Gelb] became the producer of the Met telecasts, a highly unusual arrangement between a profit-making and nonprofit institution," Fiedler wrote. "It came to an abrupt halt with Joseph Volpe's rise to power. Indeed, it was reported that Volpe . . . threatened to throw the brash young Gelb across Lincoln Center Plaza."
Yesterday, there was no hint of past discord. Volpe released a statement declaring himself "delighted" that the Met had chosen Gelb as his successor. And last night Gelb said, "We have a very good relationship. It's sometimes difficult when you have very emotional participants on artistic matters, but the fact of it is we've worked together often, and we get along terrifically."
Conductor James Levine -- who has recently begun his tenure as the 14th music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra but retains music directorship at the Met -- also released a statement: "I'm thrilled that Peter Gelb has agreed to become the next general manager of the Met. He and I have known each other forever and have an excellent rapport based on our collaboration on many successful artistic projects. I'm sure his vast experience coupled with his positive energy and love of the art form will give the Met a wonderfully creative and exciting future."