(Corrects story published on July 8 to note in 28th paragraph that the Philadelphia Orchestra music director in 2010 was Charles Dutoit. Adds spokesman comment in 29th paragraph.)
The senior Carnegie Hall stagehand’s reward for moving a piano: that’s anyone’s guess, but his annual pay was $465,000.
As the pillars of New York culture attempted to rebound from the financial crisis in 2011, so did compensation at the top.
The city’s largest museums and performing-arts organizations paid at least eight people more than $1 million including retirement and other benefits, according to recently released tax returns. (Not all 2012 returns were available.)
“The recession made good arts managers an even more valuable commodity,” said Melissa Berman, president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, which advises donors. “I’m not surprised that pay has begun to recover.”
Managing the arts became more difficult, Berman said, as government and corporate funding dwindled and many individuals emphasized causes they deem more immediate, such as hunger.
Levy has overseen more than $1 billion of fundraising and the widely praised redevelopment of the Upper West Side campus, which includes Lincoln Center Theater, the Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic.
Levy, who is retiring at the end of this year, arrived at Lincoln Center in 2002 after running the International Rescue Committee, which responds to humanitarian crises.
His successor, a surprise appointment to most arts observers, is Jed Bernstein, a Broadway producer and former head of what’s now the Broadway League, a trade association. Bernstein is also producing director of the Bucks County Playhouse, a 439-seat theater in eastern Pennsylvania.
“I’m declining to comment on Jed’s salary,” spokeswoman Betsy Vorce said. Bernstein replaces Levy in January 2014.
While Lowry’s compensation increased by about 17 percent in 2011, it was below his almost $2 million in 2007-08. In the year ending in June 2012, the midtown museum had its second-highest attendance, 3.1 million visitors, lured by retrospectives of Willem de Kooning and Cindy Sherman.
Lowry’s pay exceeded that of Thomas Campbell, who was named to the position of Met director in September 2008 and earned $1.1 million.
Ellen Futter, president of the American Museum of Natural History, and Metropolitan Museum of Art President Emily Rafferty were close behind Lowry, thanks to moonlighting and onetime payouts.
Rafferty received $1.6 million: base pay of $656,000 and the cash value of her pension after 35 years with the museum, said a spokesman, Harold Holzer.
The Other Met
Across Central Park, the Metropolitan Opera paid $1.5 million to music director James Levine, who conducted 23 performances in the first five months of 2011. An injury then kept him home, though he returned this May to conduct the Met orchestra in a concert at Carnegie Hall.
Like most top sticks, Levine always enjoyed other gigs and received $1.2 million for conducting the Boston Symphony in 2010, before resigning in September 2011.
Met Opera General Manager Peter Gelb made $1.4 million, little changed from a year earlier. He now runs the only fulltime opera company in this metropolis.
Its former neighbor at Lincoln Center, the New York City Opera, now vagabonds among scattered venues, its once-robust staffing and performance numbers a distant memory of greater times. For the 2011-2012 season, ticket sales plunged by nearly two-thirds to $1.1 million.
The company paid almost $1 of every $3 in ticket sales to its general manager and artistic director, George Steel, who earned $340,000. He took a 10 percent compensation cut as the opera’s expenses were halved.
The New York Philharmonic hasn’t yet filed its return detailing 2011 pay, but awarded music director Alan Gilbert $1.6 million in 2010. Gilbert has shown a dramatic side with his inventive semi-stagings of opera, most recently of Dallapiccola’s “The Prisoner.” Perhaps he could step next door to the Met and fill in for Levine?
At Carnegie Hall, Clive Gillinson, the executive and artistic director, got $1.1 million in 2011, up 6 percent.
Dennis O’Connell, the prop manager, earned about $465,000. He was the best-paid of the five-member stage crew, all of whom pile up overtime.
In a sign that no one is immune from hard times, even the stagehands haven’t entirely recovered. O’Connell’s pay was down 14 percent from 2007-2008, when he made $530,000.
Elsewhere in the nation, the top titans are not suffering.
Michael Kaiser, who resigns next year as president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, earned $1.4 million in 2010. He will continue dispensing advice around the globe as leader of the center’s arts-management arm (though things did not work out for one advisee, the New York City Opera).
In Philadelphia: The fabulous Philadelphians, the first major U.S. orchestra that spent an embarrassing residency in Chapter 11, paid its president, Allison Vulgamore, $768,000 in 2010. The music director at the time, Charles Dutoit, earned $1.5 million.
A spokesman, Katherine Blodgett, declined to disclose the pay of its current chief conductor, Yannick Nezet-Seguin. She said Vulgamore’s compensation included one-time payments related to relocating from Atlanta (where the reward for running that symphony topped $500,000).
In Chicago: Douglas Druick earned $415,000 for his first half-year as director and president of the Art Institute of Chicago. At the symphony, President Deborah Rutter made $577,000. The senior Italian legend and music director, Riccardo Muti, earned $1.2 million.
Over at the Lyric Opera, many are at work stirring the creative pot. Sir Andrew Davis, the music director, earned $884,000 in 2011. General director Anthony Freud pocketed $429,000 (including a $200,000 signing bonus for leaving the Houston Grand Opera). Obviously, this sum does not represent his full salary since Freud was still part-time for some of that year. Creative consultant Renee Fleming received $497,000 for sprinkling inspirational diva dust amongst the company in various forums.
In Los Angeles: James Cuno, president and chief executive of the J. Paul Getty Trust earned $1.1 million in 2012. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art paid Chief Executive Michael Govan $1.3 million. He has recently presented plans to blow up much of his campus for a new look by Swiss ascetic Peter Zumthor.
Over at the smaller Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, director Jeffrey Deitch, who has had to battle an uprising among his board, earned $916,000.
A short walk north, Gustavo Dudamel, the Venezuelan dynamo who may eventually take over the Berlin Philharmonic, earned just shy of $1 million in 2010 at the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Deborah Borda, the executive who discovered him and transformed Walt Disney Concert Hall into a destination after opening the Frank Gehry palace 10 years ago, earned $1.6 million.
But the top baton lives in San Francisco: Michael Tilson Thomas, who earned $2.4 million as the symphony’s music director in 2010, while also busy in other venues, like Miami.
His neighbor next door, opera manager David Gockley, pulled in about as much as Gelb: $1.5 million for staging about a third of the number of productions produced by the Met.
In an interview, Chief Financial Officer Michael Simpson said Gockley’s pay included a $1 million bonus for luring him from the Houston Grand Opera in 2005 and to compensate for retirement benefits he forfeited.
After more than 30 years at Houston’s helm, he may also have been ready for a change of scenery. Gockley turns 70 this week.
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