Culture Magazine

Curiouser and Curiouser

By Superconductor @ppelkonen
Labor Injunctions May Kibosh City Opera Exit Plan

Curiouser and Curiouser

"I can't fix the budget, Alice. I'm just a flamingo."
Illustration from Alice in Wonderland by John Tenniel.


"He sent them word I had not gone
(We know it to be true):
If she should push the matter on,
What would become of you?"
--Lewis Carroll
Just when you thought things couldn't get any weirder for the once-proud New York City Opera, an announcement today has the opera company falling further down a metaphorical rabbit hole of their own making.
Today, the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) which is the musician's union for opera, dance and concert musicians (in other words: the union of the New York City Opera Orchestra) filed unfair labor practices against City Opera.
The charges accuse the opera company of bargaining with the musicians in bad faith as the deadline to renew their contract came and went. City Opera is coming off a disastrous 2010-2011 season which saw the once proud company presenting obscure operas (A Quiet Place, Intermezzo, Séance on a Wet Afternoon) to 40% capacity houses.
As a result, the company has exhaustedits own endowment: leaving just $5 million of what was once an eight-figure sum. The company's rent at Lincoln Center amounts to $4.5 million a year. As of this writing, no season or schedule of operas has been announced, which is presumably not the way to build a subscription base or attract donors.
The orchestra's contract with the opera company expired on April 30th, and it has been speculated that the opera company's current initiative to move out of their digs at Lincoln Center may be part of some elaborate Scott Walker-esque plan to break the musician's union and reduce the City Opera's orchestra to a pick-up or freelance ensemble.
In a further twist, AGMA announced that it will file an injunction seeking to prevent the opera company's exit from the former New York State Theater. The building was refit and renamed in 2008 after a certain industrial tycoon whose opposition to unions is well documented. How ironic then, that a union may force the opera company to remain in a building named after billionaire David I. Koch?

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