City Opera Unions Make a Modest Proposal.
by Paul Pelkonen
by Paul Pelkonen
|Frame-grab from the video for Van Halen's 1993 song "Right Now."|
Image © 1993 Warner Bros. Records, Van Halen Publishing, Cabo Wabo Music.
A new twist has emerged in the ongoing struggle between the New York City Opera and the unions for its orchestra and chorus. The two unions: Associated Musicians of Greater New York Local 802 and the American Guild of Musical Artists have offered to work this season--for free.
The union offer was announced in a statement, obtained by the Wall Street Journal. The source for this story is a blog post on WSJ.com by Jennifer Maloney.
The union's offer is contingent on the musicians and choristers keeping their current health benefits in the 2011-2012 season. The union would then want a voice in selecting repertory and venues for coming seasons, a job that is currently the exclusive providence of company general manager George Steel.
In a statement, AGMA Executive Director Alan Gordon said: "Performing for free is an anathema. But it's a last-ditch alternative to a management plan that would drive City Opera out of existence." According to the Journal article, the City Opera's current offer to the musicians is $4,000, 1/10th of their $40,000 salaries, with severely limited health benefits. In other words, the orchestra and chorus would be freelancers.
Under Mr. Steel. the City Opera ditched its old digs at Lincoln Center last April in an effort to slash operating costs from $31 million to $13 million. In the process, they slashed their staff, including longtime music director George Manahan. The company will play a radically shortened season in 2012, moving between four different venues around New York in an effort to lower costs and drum up interest in its programming.The City Opera is scheduled to resume operations on Nov. 17 with a concert at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater, featuring singer-songwriter turned composer Rufus Wainwright. The company will then throw a gala fund-raiser on Nov. 28 at the Waldorf-Astoria. There is no word as to whether employees at the historic hotel will be asked to work for free.