Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New York City Opera Locks Out Singers, Musicians, Imperiling 2012 Season

I'm not really much of an opera fan, but I do recognize its importance on the cultural landscape. Which is what makes this story from Bloomberg so distressing:
New York City Opera locked out its musicians and choristers a month before its first scheduled performance of 2012, imperiling the 69-year-old company that Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia called “the people’s opera.”

The company said in a statement released today that management “stretched every dollar available to them to create a proposal that would suit their economic constraints and encourage the unions to come back to work, but the unions refused.”

Mediation that began on Dec. 19 by the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service ended yesterday at 9 p.m., said Alan Gordon, national executive director of the American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents choristers. He said compensation remained a sticking point. Choristers would’ve had their pay plummet to $4,000 a season from about $40,000, given the company’s diminished performance schedule.
Yikes, that's quite a staggering drop in pay, all right. No wonder the singers and musicians are upset. So what is causing such a dramatic drop, anyway?
The company’s projected $13 million budget this season, down 57 percent from two years earlier, is under further pressure. “We were told by the mediator that fundraising and ticket sales are suffering, said Gail Kruvand, assistant principal bass and chair of the orchestra’s negotiating committee.
Holy crap, that's not a drop, that's a collapse. If true, the union really doesn't have a leg to stand on in this fight.

Bonus: Sadly, Philistine that I am, rock opera has always been more to my taste


  1. The arts are a very civilizing spirit and a huge contributor to urban culture and grace.

    Ironically, much funding for museums and the performance arts comes from the patronage of wealth. Ticket sales never begin to cover the cost of operations.

    If wealthy donations decline, operating budgets get squeezed.

    The 1% appear to be slacking off on their noblesse oblige.

    Without the patronage of wealthy donor foundations and left to their own preferences, culture in America would consist of bikers gangs, trailer park hoedowns,and NASCAR tailgate parties.

    The arts are an area where the 1% usually contribute more than their fair share--and to good end.


  2. I wonder how this compares to the rate of change of attendance at other forms of live performance?

  3. @gardener1 - to be fair, NASCAR attendance is also way down. :)

  4. Quick, Bill - get yourself some opera while you can!


    Ombra mai fu
    di vegetabil
    cara ed amable
    soave piu

    (Never was made the shade
    of a plant
    dear and loving
    or more gentle)

    frondi tenere e belle
    del mio platano amato
    per voi risplenda il fato
    tuoni, lampi, e procelle
    non vi oltraggino mai la ara pace
    ne giunga a profanarvi austro rapace

    (Tender and beautiful fronds
    Of my beloved plane tree
    Let fate smile upon you
    may thunder, lightening and storms
    Never bother your dear peace
    Nor may you be profaned by blowing winds)

  5. @Gail - okay, I'll admit it...that was beautiful. :)