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Peter Gelb new leader of the Met

President of the Sony Classical label is named to the most powerful post in American opera.

October 30, 2004|Diane Haithman | Times Staff Writer

Peter Gelb, the president of the Sony Classical record label and former manager of pianist Vladimir Horowitz, was named Friday to succeed Joseph Volpe as general manager of New York City's Metropolitan Opera.

The 50-year-old recording executive had been rumored in recent months to be on a short list of candidates for the prestigious post. The list was also said to include tenor Placido Domingo, general manager of Los Angeles Opera and Washington Opera; Deborah Borda, executive director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic; and Lesley Koenig, general manager of the San Fran- cisco Ballet.

Domingo was rumored not only to have been on that list but also to be actively seeking the job. The two purported candidates from Los Angeles denied any interest in the post, however.

In an interview Friday, Los Angeles Opera artistic director Edgar Baitzel said of Domingo: "The rumor that he had thrown his hat in the ring was never true." And a Los Angeles Philharmonic spokeswoman said Friday that the Met had been considering Borda but that she had withdrawn her name from the list of candidates.

A Met spokesman said the appointment to the most powerful post in American opera was not finalized until Friday. Company President William C. Morris declined to discuss the selection process, but in a statement he lauded Gelb's "deep knowledge of classical music wedded to strong managerial talents.... [His] experience in the classical music business at the highest level makes him a logical choice for this challenging position."

Metropolitan Opera Chairwoman Beverly Sills praised Gelb's "youthful enthusiasm."

Gelb became president of Sony Classical in 1995. He was previously president of CAMI Video, which Sony Music Entertainment acquired from Columbia Artists Management Inc. in 1993.

In its announcement of his appointment, the Met noted also that Gelb's association with the Metropolitan Opera goes back to working there as an usher when he was a teenager. Gelb also did publicity for the Metropolitan Opera's ballet presentations in the early 1970s before he became assistant manager of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Los Angeles Opera's Baitzel called Gelb, the only candidate on the rumored short list who had not headed a major performing arts organization, a "great choice" for the Met.

"I congratulate him and the search committee that they could convince Peter to come back to opera and to the Met," Baitzel said. "He used to work at the Met, and he knows the institution inside out. I consider Peter really a man of the theater, and that he ended up working for so long in the recording industry was probably a built-in career step to taking over the Met."

Gelb will join the Lincoln Center-based opera company in August and work alongside the departing Volpe for a year.

Times staff writer Paul Lieberman in New York contributed to this report.

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