Peter Gelb’s career has followed a singular arc that began with his teenage years as an usher at the Metropolitan Opera and led to his appointment, in August 2006, as the storied company’s 16th general manager.
Now in his ninth season at the helm of the Met, Mr. Gelb has overseen the launch of a number of initiatives aimed at revitalizing opera and connecting it to a wider audience since the start of his tenure. One of his fundamental goals has been to recruit the world’s great theater directors to enhance the theatricality of the Met’s productions and complement the extraordinary musical standards established by Music Director James Levine. Mr. Gelb is also committed to securing more engagements each season from the world’s top singers. One of the most successful and trailblazing of his new initiatives is The Met: Live in HD, a Peabody and Emmy Award–winning series of live performance transmissions shown in high definition in movie theaters. The series has sold more than 17 million tickets since its inception in December 2006 and is currently seen on more than 2,000 screens in 70 countries across six continents. The Met’s HD programs have raised global awareness of opera, inspiring other institutions throughout the world that are in need of revitalization. The challenge of finding new audiences while keeping traditional opera lovers satisfied was solved by the Met through high definition simulcasts, which now reach up to 1,500 movie theaters in 46 countries and an estimated audience to date of 7 million.
Mr. Gelb has also made a priority of revitalizing the repertory with new productions of both classic operas and modern masterpieces. Since he took over with the 2006–07 season, the Met has presented 60 new stagings by some of the world’s greatest theater, film, and opera directors, including David Alden, Patrice Chéreau, Willy Decker, Richard Eyre, François Girard, Michael Grandage, Nicholas Hytner, William Kentridge, Robert Lepage, Michael Mayer, David McVicar, the late Anthony Minghella, Mark Morris, Tom Morris, Jack O’Brien, Jeremy Sams, Peter Sellars, Bartlett Sher, Susan Stroman, Dmitri Tcherniakov, Mariusz Treliński, Deborah Warner, Zhang Yimou, and Mary Zimmerman, among others.
Mr. Gelb has also capitalized on new media technology to share Met performances with a wider global audience than ever before. In September 2006, Sirius Satellite Radio (now SiriusXM) launched Metropolitan Opera Radio, an around-the-clock channel broadcasting live performances each week as well as historic performances from the Met’s vast radio archive. The Met Opera on Demand streaming service, available on any computer or iPad, makes more than 550 HD, standard-definition, and audio performances available online in stunning high quality on a subscription basis. The Met also presents free, live streaming of performances from its website once a week. Other initiatives launched by Mr. Gelb include a commissioning program for new operas; free dress rehearsals for the public; a free live transmission of the opening-night performance onto giant screens at Times Square and Lincoln Center Plaza; an immensely popular rush tickets program that offers select orchestra seats for weekday and weekend performances at dramatically reduced prices; and the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Gallery Met, a contemporary art exhibition space in the Met lobby that presents new work connected to Met productions by such artists as John Currin, William Kentridge, Julie Mehretu, Elizabeth Peyton, Julian Schnabel, Dana Schutz, and others.
Mr. Gelb’s extensive and varied experience in the field of classical music has prepared him for the considerable challenge of overseeing both the artistic and the administrative aspects of one of the largest performing arts institutions in the world. As an award-winning producer of films, recordings, radio broadcasts, telecasts, concert events, operas, and festivals, he worked with many of the world’s leading artists prior to becoming general manager, including Vladimir Horowitz, Herbert von Karajan, Mstislav Rostropovich, Luciano Pavarotti, and Plácido Domingo.
Under Mr. Gelb, the Metropolitan Opera has once again taken a leadership role among opera houses and other arts organizations, not only in the U.S. but around the world, providing a model for other groups with its groundbreaking artistic and public initiatives. Mr. Gelb today shares his message regularly through keynote addresses and discussions at conferences in the U.S. and abroad, including at Harvard University, Yale University, MIT, New York University, the Miller Theater at Columbia University, Showa University in Japan, the European Opera Conference in Paris, the Chautauqua Institution, the American Symphony Orchestra League, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, the American Academy in Berlin, and the MIDEM conference in Cannes. He has received honorary doctorates from Hamilton College and from the Macaulay Honors College of the City University of New York. Time magazine named Mr. Gelb a 2008 honoree of the Time 100 list of the world’s most influential people. In 2010, France honored him as an Officier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in 2012 he received the Diplomacy Award of the Foreign Policy Association. Most recently in 2013, he received the Sanford Prize from the Yale School of Music and was named Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur by the French President.
Mr. Gelb is the son of the late Arthur Gelb, former managing editor of The New York Times, and writer Barbara Gelb. He is married to conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson and has two sons.