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Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, picket a little more

This just landed in La Cieca’s inbox:  “We regret to inform you that Lyric Opera of Chicago season is in peril. Yesterday Lyric advised us that if we do not accept their one year demand for a two week reduction of employment, an elimination of wage parity with the orchestra, and an additional 5.2 % reduction in salaries that they will lock out AGMA members on Monday, August 22, 2011.”

The missive continues:

AGMA has worked hard to identify savings and has already made significant concessions, but we are unable to agree to a 11.25% reduction in wages nor Lyric’s suggestions that the Regular Chorus and Production Staff shift the burden of the concessions to Dancers, Supplementary Chorus, Actors and Principals who have already suffered from Lyric’s cuts to the artistic product. Lyric is seeking $500,000 in additional savings from their approved budget which already included the two weeks employment.

Lyric’s threats put the free concert for Chicago at Millennium Park in jeopardy, and possibly the entire season. General Director William Mason has been absent from all negotiations. Anthony Freud, the incoming General Director, has refused to participate in across-the-table negotiations with your bargaining committee. AGMA’s concern from the beginning of negotiations has been that Lyric and the Board do not have a plan to address the ten year, 27% decrease in ticket sales except to cut the artistic product through significant decreases in the number of Choristers, engaging fewer star performers, shifting comprimario roles from seasoned professionals to young artists, elimination of rehearsals with orchestra, and elimination of Actors and Dancers from opera.

Lyric is rudderless, with Board Chair Kenneth Pigott leading the company into oblivion.

AGMA, its staff and its attorneys and your negotiating committee will do everything possible to protect your hard won contractual protections. But Lyric Opera’s management must come to understand that you are the Opera’s product and that you don’t save a company by skimping on its product.

Regrettably, if Lyric decides to proceed with its announced plan to lock out performers, Lyric is going to lose the Millennium Park concert, and possibly its fall season. You need to prepare for that possibility and be prepared to close down Lyric. You will be expected to picket and to resist every encroachment upon your hard won contractual protections.

72 comments

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Canceling on the the operas NOW is a very good idea, and if they don’t, frankly, I hope this season at Lyric Opera is in some way interrupted or even partially cancelled by AGMA. Billy Mason deserves no less to end his rule and none of this in the fault of Anthony Freund. Maybe George steel can be engaged as a special consultant.

    • inthewings says:

      Mister Freud should be interested in the new rules that he would have to live under (run the company). If Lyric’s negotiation team is keeping him up to date that is obviously not working to well. He should show up at the table to plea his own case. Lyric is trying to keep his “fingerprints” off of this entire mess.

  • javier says:

    what is with american’s and unions? take your pay cut and start looking for a second job.

    • SilvestriWoman says:

      What is it with Americans and unions? Simply put -- they built our middle class. In the case of our opera companies, they’ve also proven a guarantee of the best talent around.

      As far as the choristers, their jobs are treasured. My guess is that you’ve never tried to get a full-time position in a union chorus. Positions rarely become available as union opera chorus gigs are the only singing gigs in the country that provide a secure income plus benefits. As for that second job, some choristers teach on the side, or work temp jobs (if there still are any), in the off-season. During the season, though, a second job is difficult. Choristers have to remain flexible and their days can be long. It’s not unusual to be in rehearsal for one opera all day, then performing at night.

      What’s lost in a lot of the debate is that, more than ever, unions are making many concessions. Often what they’re fighting for is simply a place at the table. It’s easy to forget that, should LOC choristers strike, they’re not getting a pay check.

      • Lady Bracknell says:

        Those are all fair points, Silvestri. However, Lyric’s orchestra, stagehands and administrative staff have all seen their wages frozen/reduced and work weeks reduced in the last two years. Why should AGMA be exempted? Fair is fair.

        • Povero Buoso says:

          Yes fair is fair-
          I know that AGMA has had less favorable contracts/wages in the past compared to those groups- and management is asking from AGMA more than those other groups gave up.
          So what’s fair about that?

  • Povero Buoso says:

    “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.”

    Well put, SilvestriWoman. And so appropriate for this discussion. At LOC the emphasis since Krainik has been on “fiscal responsibility” and not on the product. The audience (not as dumb as they think) lost interest and stopped climbing over each other to grab that last ticket. And now they have a ‘systemic problem’ and can’t meet their operating budget because they relied so heavily on ticket revenue to balance the budget. So now they are asking for huge consessions from the unions (the same people who helped build the company).
    Sound familiar? It’s the American business model for the last 20+ years.

    • operagirl40 says:

      Totally accurate, Buoso. Who in HELL is going to pay $220 a ticket to hear Susanna Phillips sing LUCIA? Don’t blame the unions for empty seats. Lyric has been turned into a regional company.

      • oedipe says:

        I don’t get it, I’m stymied. Can’t a house like LOC hire some of the affordable budding talents who are criminally underutilized by the Met (because the Met insists on hiring all these overrated international stars)?

        • operagirl40 says:

          Lyric SHOULD have realized that AFFORDABLE BUDDING TALENTS don’t sell tickets!! BTW … who are you suggesting?

          • oedipe says:

            Well…It beats me (I confess)! All I know is that the “affordable talents that are criminally underutilized by the Met” is a favored theme on Parterre. Maybe someone will care to enlighten us both?

          • atalaya says:

            Who are you suggesting? Besides the obvious Netrebko, Dessay, and Damrau, what Lucia would you choose for the purpose of selling tickets?

      • inthewings says:

        GASP!!

      • jatm2063 says:

        BUT SUSANNA PHILLIPS IS A MEMBER OF AGMA! According to many posters on here, that means she must be one of the absolute best available Lucia’s on the planet at this moment. Just because she’s a member of a union!

        Any and all, feel free to rebutt at will. I would like to know what you have to say.

  • Povero Buoso says:

    operagirl40-

    In defense of Susanna Phillips, while a good singer, she is young and probably not seasoned enough to sing that role at a major venue. I hope she does well.

    Shame on ALL the major companies that bring promising young talent along too quickly or cast them in roles either too big or heavy just so they can promote the new “flavor” and create “buzz”. The focus on short term is not only ruining opera companies, but the lifeblood of those companies- the singers, who get burned out or maimed by bad casting decisions.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Let Ms Flemming sing a gala concert and cancel one of their crappy new productions so they can pay the performers! Better still -- get Liza Minnelli that will pack the house.

    • operadunce says:

      Don’t members of the chorus, dancers, orchestra, stage hands, etc. lose money if productions are canceled? BTW, Ms. “Flemming” is already scheduled to sing a subscriber appreciation concert in Chicago with Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Maybe Liza could sing Lucia instead?

      • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

        Not necessarily. As Gianni Schicchi says: “What you lose on the one hand, you gain on the other.” I wonder if one ran the math what the savings would be in such a cancellation of a production even after all of the required pay outs.

    • SilvestriWoman says:

      Oops, Sun-Times…

    • SilvestriWoman says:

      Money quote?
      “AGMA’s national president, James Odom, a tenor in the Lyric Chorus, said, ‘I’ve never seen this type of intransigence. We, too, prefer to keep negotiations at the table, but when faced with an overt threat of a lockout — particularly just having gone through an actual lockout of our union with [the] Joffrey [Ballet] here — we can’t just do nothing.’”

      • Povero Buoso says:

        The Chicago Tribune article won’t come out until they’ve received their “marching orders” from LOC.
        I guarantee a pro-management slant, as that is the slant of The Trib.

        “Hey!- that union guy wants your cookie!”

      • SilvestriWoman says:

        Here’s background on the Joffrey lockout: http://www.danceinforma.com/USA_magazine/2011/08/01/joffrey-ballet-lockout/

        • Povero Buoso says:

          Wow! That article on the joffrey lockout was so misleading! AGMA represents the dancers and protected their rights against The Joffrey Ballet management. That article tried to say that Joffrey management was protecting the dancers against AGMA!

          • Clita del Toro says:

            Chicago: OT Verdi Requiem at Millennium Park on 19 August at 6:30.

            Grant Park Orchestra
            Grant Park Chorus
            Carlos Kalmar, Conductor
            William Spaulding, Guest Chorus Director
            Amber Wagner, Soprano
            Michaela Martens, Mezzo-Soprano
            Michael Fabiano, Tenor
            Kyle Ketelsen, Bass

            I am going with friends and picnicking on the lawn.

          • MontyNostry says:

            Nice line-up of singers, even if Ketelsen isn’t a real bass.

          • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

            And how would losing that requiem in the park harm the cultural life of Chicago as it is today? Unless it’s a memorial tribute to something it seems like an odd choice to herald a festive new season of opera.

          • armerjacquino says:

            Reason not the need.

          • SilvestriWoman says:

            QPF, nothing would be lost because the Requiem is being presented by the Grant Park Music Festival, not Lyric. Though all concerts are free, it’s an all-pro chorus, many of whom sing at Lyric, both as chorus and soloists.

          • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

            Well if they strike, this quy is probably not union yet, but he’s good!


            and multi-talented

          • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

            And since this page is headed “cheep, cheep , cheep”:

        • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

          Unregretable

  • Clita del Toro says:

    How Is Fabiano--never have heard him.

  • web team says:

    Fabiano = fabulous. I would buy a ticket for the Requiem. Amber Wagner is also another voice I would like to hear in person.

  • DonCarloFanatic says:

    Is it off-topic to say I am listening to Renee do Rosenkavalier on Sirius right now and she’s very good? Because she is, and she certainly has stamina, too.

    • mrmyster says:

      and, DCF, Renee’s Marschallin on the radio or other broadcast is MUCH better than in the house, because due to microphones etc. you can hear her — and her German text is good, meaningful; I learned this two years ago hearing her
      on the HighDef moviecast, where she was easily heard, and then live in the house where she was not heard. She does not have the weight in her middle voice that the role requires — that aside, she is very lovely in it. But, now I want to hear Madame Harteros’s Marschallin; that thought has my musical mouth watering. Agree?

      • DonCarloFanatic says:

        I’ve read a lot of praise for her on Parterre, but not heard her in anything yet.

      • armerjacquino says:

        I don’t know where you were sitting, mrmyster, but I was at the last run of Rosenkav at the Met and heard Fleming just fine from Family Circle. So ‘she was not heard’ by you, but this is not as definitive as your passive voice makes it sound.