Bankers Revel in Surplus, Cost Cuts at Met Opera Opening Night

  • Deutsche Bank's John Cryan enjoys peasant food during supper
  • Former Barclays exec del Missier calls board's work 'sound'

When you’re a finance executive at the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera, no one asks you to sing. A more natural subject was the expected $1 million surplus for the past season, which followed a $22 million deficit, and the performance of General Manager Peter Gelb.

"That math works," said Jacques Brand, chief executive officer of the North American unit of Deutsche Bank AG and a Met Opera advisory board member.

"Peter and the board have done really sound work to address the sustainability of the company," said Jerry del Missier, the former Barclays Plc chief operating officer who recently started Copper Street Capital to focus on investments in financial services, and is a Met Opera managing director.

Jerry and Jane del Missier
Jerry and Jane del Missier
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

"We just care that they have enough money that we can still come," said Julie Macklowe, a former hedge-fund manager and the founder and CEO of cosmetics line vBeaute.

Julie Macklowe and Stacey Bronfman
Julie Macklowe and Stacey Bronfman
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

New union contracts, cost-cutting across departments and increased donations all contributed to the improved financial picture, according to a statement last week.

"It’s something you can never really count on," said Ann Ziff, chairman of the Met Opera. "But we had to do it. We had a really tough time with the union negotiations, but I don’t think that’s entirely bad, when you have to refocus everything."

"People sometimes think we’re extravagant, but not anymore," said Judith-Ann Corrente, president of the Met Opera. "Peter and his team are very budget-conscious."

The trimming isn’t over: the opera is budgeting less than $300 million this season, down from $327 million two years ago.

Deutsche Bank co-Chief Executive Officer John Cryan can relate: he’s seeking to reduce expenses and boost returns. Brand cited another commonality between the opera and Germany’s largest lender as he addressed about 1,000 guests after the performance of a new production of "Otello."

John Cryan, Jacques Brand and Kenneth Chenault
John Cryan, Jacques Brand and Kenneth Chenault
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

"Tonight we enjoyed an opera composed by an Italian, based on a British play, brought to life by an American director, conducted by a French Canadian, and performed by a cast of Serbians, Bulgarians, Latvians and others," Brand said. "I can tell you, working for a global organization, this is the kind of collaboration on a global scale that we all strive for."

Deutsche Bank has served as the lead sponsor of the Met’s opening night for 15 years.

Some evidence of austerity could be seen at the gala. For one, the sets were spare, with projections of clouds and waves that Drew Barrymore liked, and moving pieces of classical structures admired by Kathleen Kimiko Phillips, president of Berens Capital Management. One guest said they looked like empty cereal boxes.

Christian Lohrmann and his fiancee Kathleen Kimiko Phillips
Christian Lohrmann and his fiancee Kathleen Kimiko Phillips
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

The late-night supper started with a Italian peasant dish, panzanella salad, and moved on to upscale, non-rubber chicken, identified as Griggstown Farm poussin. The dish came with truffled potato puree, candy cane beets and lemon thyme emulsion. Instead of individual desserts, each table had a tray of sweets. Paper chandeliers hung above.

Trompe-l'oeil at work
Trompe-l'oeil at work
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

The company included Helen Mirren, attending as a guest of Henry Kravis, and Jessica Chastain; Jake Wood, CEO of Team Rubicon; Leon Black, Howard Marks, Bruce Kovner, Frederick Iseman, Robert Kapito of BlackRock and hedge-fund manager George Weiss.

No one had an issue with the idea of adding Sunday performances, which Gelb has said the opera is considering. It would be a good day for businesspeople, said Met Opera advisory director Daisy Soros. "If they come during the week, they fall asleep; on Sundays, they’re alive."

Helen Mirren, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Taylor Hackford, Mirren's husband.
Helen Mirren, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Taylor Hackford, Mirren's husband.
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg
George and Lydia Weiss
George and Lydia Weiss
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg
Howard and Nancy Marks
Howard and Nancy Marks
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg
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