Chicago Lyric Opera Musicians Walk Out as Season Opens

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lennygoran
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Chicago Lyric Opera Musicians Walk Out as Season Opens

Post by lennygoran » Wed Oct 10, 2018 7:50 pm

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Chicago Lyric Opera Musicians Walk Out as Season Opens

By Michael Cooper

Oct. 9, 2018

Just three days after Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its 64th season with a starry new production of Puccini’s “La Bohème,” the music stopped on Tuesday as the musicians in its orchestra went on strike to protest cuts being sought by the management.

Management at Lyric Opera, which is one of the largest and most important companies in the United States, said in contract negotiations that it must cut costs to ensure the company’s survival in an era when audience demand for grand opera is weaker than it used to be; the musicians’ union counters that such cuts will endanger artistic quality and risk making the company “a pale shadow of its former self.”

Management was seeking to reduce the number of guaranteed weeks of work for the players in the orchestra to 22 from the current 24; to cut the number of full-time musicians to 69 from 74 through attrition; and to stop making payments for radio broadcasts that it says it can no longer afford to present. The musicians walked out on Tuesday morning.

“Why are we on strike?” the orchestra, represented by the Chicago Federation of Musicians, said in a statement shortly after they walked out. “Because a world-class opera company needs a world-class orchestra. That is now in danger.”

Anthony Freud, who has been the general director of Lyric Opera since 2011, said in a telephone interview that the proposed cuts were “based on our belief that we want to continue paying good wages for work done, but we can no longer afford to pay for work not done.”

He said that the company wanted to reduce the number of work weeks to reflect audience demand — which has led it to schedule fewer performances each season than before.

As recently as two decades ago, Lyric Opera was in an enviably strong financial position: It sometimes reported selling better than 100 percent of capacity because it would sell out on subscriptions, and some subscribers would donate back tickets they could not use, which would then be resold. And the season was longer: 85 or 90 opera performances a season.

But in recent years demand has softened considerably. The company is presenting fewer than 60 opera performances this season. In recent years it has tried to raise revenues in other ways, including by presenting a long run of a musical each season and renting its theater out.


Company officials went in to the current round of negotiations seeking cuts. They reached agreements with the leaders of two other unions, the American Guild of Musical Artists and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, but not with the musicians.

The musicians said in a statement that the union was seeking to maintain the size of the orchestra, win cost of living increases, and preserve benefits and working conditions. “An opera company that aspires to be world class needs an orchestra that can draw the finest musicians, and produce the sound that makes opera the thrilling experience that Chicagoans have come to expect from Lyric Opera,” it said.

The management countered that the changes it seeks are essential: “Our proposed changes are necessary to ensure Lyric’s survival as a world class opera company providing a diverse range of cultural entertainment to communities throughout Chicago.”

In recent seasons the company has mounted a number of ambitious works, including a new production of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle (its “Siegfried” is scheduled for this fall), and in 2015 it presented the premiere of “Bel Canto,” an opera composed by Jimmy López with a libretto by Nilo Cruz that was adapted from Ann Patchett’s novel of the same name.

Officials said that they had canceled a matinee of “La Bohème” scheduled for Thursday, and the opening night of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” on Saturday. After that is a question mark.


https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/09/arts ... opens.html

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Re: Chicago Lyric Opera Musicians Walk Out as Season Opens

Post by Lance » Wed Oct 10, 2018 8:38 pm

While I can certainly understand the musician's views in wanting to protect their positions (and wages) with the great Chicago Lyric Opera, monies are simply not coming in. This is not new for any professional opera or orchestra across the USA. It is always necessary to cut back to be sure of survival of the future. Cutting back on the number of performances, and reducing the number of orchestral members is one way to reduce costs. If higher ticket prices are put in place, even few opera lovers will be able to go. So then, what IS the answer?
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Rach3
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Re: Chicago Lyric Opera Musicians Walk Out as Season Opens

Post by Rach3 » Thu Oct 11, 2018 8:14 am

FWW, if many current opera lovers acquired their taste for the genre from their parents, it would appear part of the problem may be that generation of parents has gone and not been replaced in sufficient numbers to generate sufficient new fans.Other sources of the acquired taste, eg.Classical radio, may also have disappeared or become more limited. Perhaps part of an " answer " is to determine what the main creative sources were in the past and what needs to be done to rebuild or replace those sources, if anything can be done. Otherwise,either a " world-class " company is not realistic ( where would Lyric Opera musicians find equivalent work if Lyric folds ? ), or fans of the genre will have to pay even more ? No answers here !

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Re: Chicago Lyric Opera Musicians Walk Out as Season Opens

Post by maestrob » Thu Oct 11, 2018 10:59 am

The "answer" is that our culture is changing here in America. Young people are simply not being exposed to classical music in the way that we were, thus audiences are dwindling. What we need is more enthusiasm from parents and teachers, something like El Sistema could be established.

When Verdi passed on, a massive crowd appeared in the streets singing "Va, pensiero" from Nabucco. Can anyone imagine that happening with any of our current opera composers?

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Re: Chicago Lyric Opera Musicians Walk Out as Season Opens

Post by Lance » Thu Oct 11, 2018 4:40 pm

Indeed, a continuously growing problem. Sports activities for children seem more important to most parents. A shame they don't realize children can't take their sports with them through their lives, except as spectators. To respond to your last question with regard to today's composers. Other than Leonard Bernstein in some of his shows, I can't think of too many composers whose music provides that "tunefulness" that was so evident in the time of Giuseppe Verdi that causes us to whistle a tune from present-day opera. Insofar as non-operatic composers, I find myself singing (to myself) Copland's "I Bought Me a Cat"! Indeed, a changing America, unfortunately, which seems to be spreading across our otherwise great tornadic/hurricanic infested world.
maestrob wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 10:59 am
The "answer" is that our culture is changing here in America. Young people are simply not being exposed to classical music in the way that we were, thus audiences are dwindling. What we need is more enthusiasm from parents and teachers, something like El Sistema could be established.

When Verdi passed on, a massive crowd appeared in the streets singing "Va, pensiero" from Nabucco. Can anyone imagine that happening with any of our current opera composers?
Lance G. Hill
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Re: Chicago Lyric Opera Musicians Walk Out as Season Opens

Post by Lance » Thu Oct 11, 2018 4:49 pm

THAT is a poignant and essential question. Where WILL they find comparable work given what's happening in most music organizations, opera or otherwise.
Rach3 wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 8:14 am
Otherwise, either a "world-class" company is not realistic (where would Lyric Opera musicians find equivalent work if Lyric folds?), or fans of the genre will have to pay even more ? No answers here !
Lance G. Hill
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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RebLem
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Re: Chicago Lyric Opera Musicians Walk Out as Season Opens

Post by RebLem » Fri Oct 12, 2018 7:09 pm

For one thing, perhaps they could make CD or DVD recordings of their operas. The Grant Park Orchestra, which is regularly recorded by Cedille Records in Chicago, is, I understand, a summer orchestra consisting largely of Lyric Opera musicians. Perhaps they could record Lyric Opera productions, too, and make a little money for the orchestra doing so.
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Re: Chicago Lyric Opera Musicians Walk Out as Season Opens

Post by Lance » Fri Oct 12, 2018 10:35 pm

Excellent suggestion. But I know that making recordings today in the USA is ultra-expensive. Many now go to Canada or abroad unless it is a major orchestra or soloist.
RebLem wrote:
Fri Oct 12, 2018 7:09 pm
For one thing, perhaps they could make CD or DVD recordings of their operas. The Grant Park Orchestra, which is regularly recorded by Cedille Records in Chicago, is, I understand, a summer orchestra consisting largely of Lyric Opera musicians. Perhaps they could record Lyric Opera productions, too, and make a little money for the orchestra doing so.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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John F
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Re: Chicago Lyric Opera Musicians Walk Out as Season Opens

Post by John F » Tue Oct 16, 2018 6:35 am

Strike Over, Lyric Opera of Chicago Can Resume Business
By Michael Cooper
Oct. 15, 2018

The show can go on again at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Five days after going on strike, the musicians in its orchestra on Sunday ratified a new labor agreement that would reduce their guaranteed weeks of work and the size of the orchestra but increase their weekly salary. “A world-class opera company needs a world-class orchestra,” the musicians said in a statement. “The musicians will never stop fighting for that ideal; but at this time, the music needs to return to the Civic Opera House.”

In two major respects — fewer weeks of work and a smaller permanent orchestra — the agreement was in line with what management had been seeking. But the musicians noted that they had worked to mitigate the concessions where they could; that further cancellations would be destructive for everyone involved; and that a long strike would hurt their colleagues in the company’s other unions, which had already agreed to new labor deals when the orchestra walked out. “We needed to settle this contract not only for us, but for them,” the musicians said.

The ratified agreement reduces the number of guaranteed weeks of work for the players in the orchestra to 22, from 24, and reduces the number of full-time orchestra members through attrition to 70, from 74. (Management had wanted to cut it to 69.) Anthony Freud, the general director of the Lyric Opera, said last week that the company needed to cut the length of its opera season because audience demand had weakened. The company declined to comment on the agreement on Sunday night.

The musicians said in a statement that their weekly salary would increase by 5.6 percent over the course of the three-year contract; they would be guaranteed an additional five weeks of work during the 2019-20 season to mount Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, which had long been planned but which management had warned could be cut; and the salary for musicians who play in the company’s annual run of a musical would increase by 6.6 percent.

A dress rehearsal of Mozart’s “Idomeneo,” whose opening night on Saturday was canceled because of the strike, was scheduled for Monday morning.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/arts ... trike.html
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Re: Chicago Lyric Opera Musicians Walk Out as Season Opens

Post by Lance » Thu Oct 18, 2018 10:32 pm

So, I guess it "works out" for everyone concerned. Very few get everything they want in either direction.
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