In this series, Extraordinary Lives, which explores great minds that have shaped our cultural landscape, Peter Gelb, General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera talks with Bill Kelly at the CUNY Graduate Center. Over his long and varied career, Peter Gelb has consistently sought to attract new audiences to opera and classical music. Since becoming general manager of the Met in 2006, he has revitalized the company’s repertory, enhanced the theatricality of its productions, and pioneered the use of new media technology to broadcast live performances online and in theaters across the globe. In this series, Graduate Center President Bill Kelly has one-on-one conversations with a diverse group of vital contemporary thinkers, artists, and visionaries who have indelibly impacted the fields in which they work. Previous participants have included Patti Smith, Ira Glass, and Danny Meyer."
Peter Gelb serves as general manager of New York's Metropolitan Opera, overseeing both the artistic and the administrative aspects of one of the largest performing arts institutions in the world.
Mr. Gelb has extensive and varied experience in the field of classical music. An award-winning producer of films, recordings, radio broadcasts, telecasts, concert events, operas, and festivals, he has collaborated with the world's leading artists, including Placido Domingo, Renee Fleming, Wynton Marsalis, Anthony Minghella, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, and Julie Taymor.
Since 1995 until joining the Met, Mr. Gelb was president of Sony Classical, one of the world's largest classical record labels, and led the company through a period of notable growth and creativity, expanding the focus of recording projects to include best-selling film scores, including the Academy Award-winning scores for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Tan Dun, and The Red Violin by John Corigliano among others.
As president of CAMI Video, a division of Columbia Artists Management that Mr. Gelb founded in 1982, he served as executive producer of the Met's television series, "The Metropolitan Opera Presents" for six years. While at CAMI, he also produced and directed more than 50 programs featuring such artists as Herbert von Karajan, Kathleen Battle, Jessye Norman, and Yo-Yo Ma.
Mr. Gelb's television productions earned 13 Primetime Emmy Awards. He has also won two Emmy Awards for films on Rostropovich and Vladimir Horowitz, a Peabody Award for his television series Marsalis on Music (1995), and a Grammy Award for "Recording The Producers," a film about the making of the hit Broadway show's cast album.
Earlier in his career, Mr. Gelb managed the Boston Symphony Orchestra's historic 1979 tour to China. He revived Vladimir Horowitz's concert career in 1980 and producing the famed pianist's historic return to Russia in 1986. He also produced Tan Dun's premiere, Symphony 1997, featuring Yo-Yo Ma, which Mr. Gelb commissioned in partnership with the Chinese government to be performed at the handover of Hong Kong to China.
William P. Kelly is president of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, the doctoral-granting institution of the nation's largest university. From 1998 through June 2005, he served as the Graduate Center's provost and senior vice president, a tenure that was marked by the recruitment of a remarkable cadre of internationally renowned scholars to the school's faculty.
A distinguished American literature scholar and an expert on the works of James Fenimore Cooper, Dr. Kelly is the author of Plotting America's Past: Fenimore Cooper and the Leatherstocking Tales. His essays and reviews have appeared in a broad range of publications including the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times Book Review, and The American Scholar. He is the editor of the Random House edition of The Selected Works of Washington Irving and the Oxford University Press edition of The Pathfinder. He is currently at work on a book about John Jacob Astor.
Dr. Kelly graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1971, where he won the David Bowers Prize in American Studies. He was named Outstanding Graduate Student in English at Indiana University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1976. Dr. Kelly also holds a diploma in intellectual history from Cambridge University and in 1980 received a Fulbright Fellowship to France, where he subsequently became visiting professor at the University of Paris. He was also executive director of the CUNY/Paris Exchange Program and, in 2003, was named Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French Ministry of Education in recognition of his contributions to Franco-American educational and cultural relations.
On the faculty of CUNY's Queens College from 1976 to 1998, he was named Queens College's Golden Key Honor Society Teacher of the Year in 1994. He was appointed concurrently to the faculty of the Graduate Center's Ph.D. Program in English in 1986 and served as the program's executive officer from 1996 to 1998.
Dr. Kelly is the vice chairman of the CUNY Research Foundation and serves as a trustee of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb explains why production plans casting up to five years prior to an actual performance. Despite the foresight, Gelb recounts a recent troublesome casting as an instance of when that approach fell short.