While the New York City Opera held a press conference to announce its upcoming schedule Tuesday, performers from various unions held their own to protest new plans that will take shows away from Lincoln Center. NY1’s Stephanie Simon filed the following report.
Unionized singers and musicians say they're fighting for the prestige of the New York City Opera and for their jobs.
On Tuesday, they gathered outside the Guggenheim Museum as the opera was preparing to announce its new season. They say its plans for the future will destroy the company.
“It's going to ruin the careers of close to 200 people, including the orchestra and chorus,” said Tino Gagliardi, president of Local 802.
Opera management has proposed drastic concessions, including big pay cuts, no guarantee of work, no benefits, and the ability to use non-union performers, which effectively guts the union.
Union leaders said mismanagement at the New York City Opera has caused its financial troubles and called on the board to resign. They also questioned George Steel’s ability as general manager.
“In no way is he prepared to run a professional company, and he’s going to make New York City Opera a college touring company” said James Odom, president of the American Guild of Musical Artists.
In the meantime, officials from the New York City Opera say they’re offering all they can afford to.
“The issues in the union negotiations are complicated, but simply we’re trying to pay people for the work that they do,” said Steel. “In the case of the chorus contract, I think it’s modeled after most opera chorus contracts in the country.”
With the union storm breaking around him, Steel tried to sound upbeat about the shortened season and lack of a permanent home, calling the whole city its new venue.
The schedule includes a new production of “La Traviata” to take place at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in February, the U.S. premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s “Prima Donna,” Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte” at John Jay College in March, “Orpheus” at El Museo Del Barrio in May.
Steel also announced a new collaboration with the Public Theater to do free performances of Shakespeare-inspired operas at Delacorte Theater in Central Park in the fall of 2012.
What's not clear is who will be performing if there's no new contract. The singers union says it will protest everywhere City Opera plans to perform