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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Doomsday Postponed (Again)

Met extends lockout deadline by  one week. 
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The demon Surtur (right) prepares for Ragnarok in the pages of The Mighty Thor.
Pencils and art by Walter Simonson © 1983 Marvel Comics.
Here at Superconductor world headquarters (which rests mostly in the gelatinous mass of neurons between the ears of a portly 41-year-old Brooklynite with a penchant for James Bond movies, comic books and obscure Parsifal jokes) this otherwise pleasant August weekend (game night with close friends on Saturday, fantasy football draft and bar night on Sunday) was continually interrupted with thoughts of the Metropolitan Opera labor negotiations and what the result would be once an independent auditor completed his examination of the opera company's financial documents.

The first half of August has seen a cease-fire in the ugly media war between the unions and the opera house, who are at loggerheads over general manager Peter Gelb's announced intent to slash benefits by as much as 16% while still requiring his staff to work the extended overtime hours that are necessary to mount six new productions and eighteen revivals in the coming season. At the center of the negotiations are talks between the Met and the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA, representing the singers, dancers and chorus) and Local 802, which represents the Met's award-winning orchestra.

In an analysis published last month, the orchestra contended that that Mr. Gelb's yearly slew of new productions are responsible for the opera company's shortfall in ticket sales, shrinking endowment and  disappearing audience. Mr. Gelb has said in the press that opera is a a dying art form and that his company is "on the edge of a precipice."

With this tense atmosphere threatening his weekend, your reporter followed the usual procedure. News outlets on the World Wide Interweb were periodically peered at on mobile devices. Walls of Facebook users were tapped and inspected for some breach in the "wall of silence" that has suddenly surrounded these delicate negotiations. Twitter streams were panned for gold nuggets of information. E-mail was scanned for some crumbs of wisdom from the unions or the Met press department that would either announce that negotiations are moving forward or that there would be a delay or cancellation at the start of the opera season. And a writer ran out of metaphors.

This afternoon, the mist (or the steam curtain) parted to reveal that the Met and two of its unions have agreed to another week of negotiations and further examination of said records. However, the company also announced that Aug. 17, (next Sunday) would be the new deadline for general manager Peter Gelb to do what he's been threatening to do for the last two months and lock out the so-called "Metropolitan Opera family."

This extension means that the company's workers: singers, musicians, directors, scenic artists, etc. can continue their preparations for the launch of the opera company's 2014-15 season.  (which as of this writing is slotted for Sept. 22 with Le Nozze di Figaro.)  It also means that the relative media silence will probably continue for another week.

In other news, an entirely separate set of negotiations between the Met and Local One (which represents the stagehands) broke down earlier this month. According to a report on New York 1, the union offered a pay freeze of five years. When this was rejected, Mr. Gelb countered with an offer which would cut benefits by 14.5%. In today's New York Times Michael Cooper reported that the stagehands will watch the ongoing negotiations with the singers and the orchestra before deciding a course of action.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats