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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.

Friday, September 30, 2016

There Ain't No Brotherly Love

The Philadelphia Orchestra strikes on opening night.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

Update: the strike is over.
This is the only conductor appearing at Verizon Hall,
the home of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Photo alteration by the author.
The Philadelphia Orchestra, which began this decade mired in bankruptcy proceedings, went on strike tonight, effectively killing its opening night gala concert for attendees and donors. The musicians of the orchestra sent a press release to Superconductor at 7:10 this evening, announcing their decision. Tonight marked the official opening of the orchestra's season with a gala concert at the Kimmel Center. That concert, which would have featured works by Ravel, Gershwin and Ottorino Respighi's The Pines of Rome, was cancelled.

According to a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer, one thousand well-dressed concertgoers waited for an orchestra that simply refused to take the stage. After a delay, orchestra president Allison Vulgamore came out and told the disappointed crowd that tonight's concert was cancelled. However, the 500-seat gala dinner went ahead anyway. (In an update, Superconductor has learned that this weekend's scheduled performances of Mozart's Mass in C have also been axed. Negotiations are not scheduled to resume until October 4.)

In a statement on their website, the orchestra said: "We are saddened that this performance has been canceled due to the musicians’ labor action and we look forward to having the Philadelphia Sound return to us soon. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you."

A year ago, orchestra musicians signed a one-year contract extension enabling them to play the 2015-16 schedule. However, that agreement is up and the musicians, in their own press statement, stated that the organization has not kept its side of the temporary bargain. 

According to the press release from members of the orchestra, the 2015 agreement called for consultant Michael Kaiser to make recommendations to management concerning the future of the orchestra. Mr. Kaiser filed his report in April of this year, but, according to the musicians' statement his recommendations have been ignored.

In a statement sent to Superconductor earlier this evening, Ms. Vulgamore said: "The Philadelphia Orchestra is now at a threshold defined by world-class artistry, inspirational programming, service to our communities, engaged patrons, and civic relevance. The Philadelphia Orchestra cannot rest on its progress or define a spectacular path for the Fabulous Philadelphians without matching this progress with a commitment to fiscal discipline."

In other words, they're fighting about money, specifically player salaries.

This marks the second time in recent years that labor issues have marred a gala occasion for  the orchestra, known to all as the fabulous Philaephians. Two years ago, plans to open the Carnegie Hall season were mixed when a strike by stagehands at that historic venue forced the cancellation of Carnegie's opening night concert.

The Philadelphia Orchestra is scheduled to play October 10 at Carnegie Hall in a concert featuring Mahler's Sixth Symphony conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. At this stage the future of that concert is in doubt.  The disagreement between orchestra and management is primarily over wages, with the orchestra wanting to recoup some of the cuts that it agreed to when the orchestra declared bankruptcy. More on this story as it develops. 

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