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Met Opera Boosts Pay for Conductor Levine to $2.1 Million

James Levine
James Levine, the Met's music director. Levine earned $2.1.million in 2010-2011. Photographer: Koichi Miural/Metropolitan Opera via Bloomberg

James Levine, the Metropolitan Opera’s music director, earned $2.1 million in 2010, up 39 percent from a year earlier and more than the compensation of the general manager, Peter Gelb, according to the Met’s 2010-2011 tax return.

Levine’s pay was “related to the increasing success of our media program, including amounts attributable to prior years,” said Peter Clark, a Met spokesman, in an e-mail.

Clark referred in part to the Met’s high-definition performance simulcasts in cinemas worldwide. Levine oversees the orchestra, chorus, music staff and helps with artistic planning and other activities, Clark said.

Levine conducted 31 times in the 12 months ending in July 2011, double that of a year earlier. The frizzy-haired maestro withdrew from the podium in September 2011 after a fall damaged one of his vertebrae. He won’t return until late 2013 at the earliest.

Gelb earned $1.4 million in pay and benefits in 2010, up 4 percent. His base salary was $1.25 million and he sometimes flew first-class, Clark said. Moreover, a car and driver is available for business purposes seven days a week. When he uses the chauffeured car for personal reasons, he must pay taxes on the benefit, Clark said.

“He never asks the driver to work seven days a week,” Clark said.

Levine and Gelb’s pay was roughly in line with other top arts executives. Thomas P. Campbell, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, earned pay and benefits of $1.04 million in 2010. Reynold Levy’s pay and benefits as president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, including money for retirement, was listed as $1.8 million, $133,333 of which was reported in the prior year.

Surplus Seen

The Met, the largest U.S. opera presenter, spent $321 million during 2010-2011, up 8 percent. It had a $41 million surplus, reversing a $25 million deficit the prior season, as contributions and revenue surged, according to the return.

Master electrician, Paul Donahue, earned $516,577 in pay and benefits in 2010, up 18 percent from a year earlier. The stagehand’s compensation topped that of the best-paid stagehand at Carnegie Hall, Dennis O’Connell, who earned $436,097 that year, according to the tax return of Carnegie Hall.

Clark said the increase for Donahue “had to do with accrued vacation payments and the variable nature of the Met’s work schedule, including its media activities.”

Joseph Volpe, the general manager who retired in July 2006, received $406,101 in pension and health benefits.

Advertising agency Serino/Coyne received $3.9 million, up a third from 2009. Clark said the increase was the result of the timing of invoices.

Muse highlights include Mark Beech on music.

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