James Levine, the conductor of the Metropolitan Opera of New York, had been notorious since the 1970s for running a gay sex cult for barely legal teenage boys who would do anything to be classical musicians. He finally got fired in the #MeToo purge. Now Levine’s suing on the grounds that he was really fired not for the gay sex cult stuff but for being elderly, fat, having Parkinson’s disease since 1994, in a wheelchair, and not very good at conducting anymore.
The suit accuses [Met executive] Mr. Gelb, who has been deferential to Mr. Levine in public, of engaging in “demeaning name-calling more usually associated with a childhood bully than a professional music administrator,” saying that Mr. Gelb had used the phrase the “2,000-pound elephant in the room,” which the suit interprets as a “blatant reference to Levine’s physical appearance.” It also claims that Mr. Gelb told Mr. Levine at least twice that he feared Mr. Levine was “going to have a heart attack” and die while conducting. …
Off topic, I’m always interested in how much people get paid:
As music director he was paid $700,000 a year, plus $50,000 for travel and expenses, and $27,000 per performance — more than the $17,000 that the Met usually describes as its top fee. (Mr. Levine’s contract prohibited the Met from paying anyone more than him for performances, unless he agreed.)
The Met puts on about 225 performances per year, employing multiple conductors. From Wikipedia:
In 2005, Levine’s combined salary from the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Met made him the highest-paid conductor in the country, at $3.5 million. … Levine was paid $2.1 million by the Met in 2010. … Levine was paid $1.8 million by the Met for the 2015/16 season.
So, it looks like bigshots in the opera/classical music business make about 10% of what equivalent superstars in sports or movies makes, although their careers tend to last much longer. For example, well known opera singers tend to own a swanky apartment in a major musical city near the concert hall, then trade with their peers so that while, say, the New York soprano is in Vienna, a tenor from Milan is staying in her apartment, while a Parisian baritone is in his flat in Milan. It sounds complicated but a pretty nice way to live.