Joseph Volpe, the GM of the Metropolitan Opera, declared this morning (Feb. 10) that he will retire in August 2006. With no immediate prospects for a successor, Volpe's decision casts another element

Joseph Volpe, the GM of the Metropolitan Opera, declared this morning (Feb. 10) that he will retire in August 2006. With no immediate prospects for a successor, Volpe's decision casts another element of instability onto the New York City musical community, which is still reeling from the unexpected death of Carnegie Hall's artistic and executive director, Robert Harth, on Jan. 30.

Volpe says his decision reflects a desire to step away from a very taxing job which demanded his presence at four performances per week. His choice to leave in two and a half years reflects his desire to complete negotiations with the house's union employees, which include the Met's orchestra, chorus members and stagehands.

The 64-year-old Brooklyn native began his career at the world's largest opera theater in August 1964 as an apprentice carpenter, spending the next 40 years working up the Met's administrative ladder. In 1990, he was named general director, and in 1993 he assumed the GM post.

Volpe's tenure at the Met has been mercurial, from well-publicized spats with artists such as soprano Kathleen Battle to wrestling with the Lincoln Center board over redevelopment and redesign of the campus. Over the past two years, the opera house has also battled a $10 million deficit, which Volpe has tried to counter with budget cuts and a decision not to raise ticket prices next season for the first time in recent house history.

Under Volpe's leadership, the 3,900-seat Met has also had a number of artistic and administrative successes. During his tenure, the opera house has introduced 65 new productions and 19 opera premieres. The company has also expanded its presence internationally with frequent tours, recordings of symphonic repertoire and an annual series of non-operatic music at Carnegie Hall.

Volpe also introduced the wildly successful "Met Titles" system, in which individual digital title screens (installed on the backs of audience seats) provide simultaneous translation of the operas' libretti for patrons. Despite the recent financial flagging, the Metropolitan Opera still maintains an endowment of $285 million.