On the heels of hearing U.S. household net worth decreasing, at least at the median, we must consider the hard lot of the Met Opera worker.
The Metropolitan Opera singers union resumed contract talks on Monday after a two-month hiatus, but union officials said they had little hope of reaching an agreement before a threatened lockout.
Intense negotiations are expected this week as contracts expire for 15 of the Met’s 16 unions on Thursday. Last week, the opera company’s general manager, Peter Gelb, advised union members to prepare for a lockout starting Friday.
Mr. Gelb has said he is seeking labor-cost savings of 16% to 17%, as the company grapples with faltering ticket sales, a depleted endowment and rising operating costs.
Union leaders have countered that the Met should curb what they have described as out-of-control spending by Mr. Gelb. They say his proposed work-rule and benefit changes would result in losses for their members of more than 17%.
That is a fairly substantial cut. I’m going to jump over the bathos of cracking voices, though. Let’s see what hardships they face:
Full-time chorus members earned an average of $200,000 for the 2012-2013 season, including revenue sharing from high-definition broadcasts and overtime from several four-hour-plus operas. Orchestra members that year had median earnings of about $191,000.
During the talks, the American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents singers, dancers and stage managers, presented a proposal for a series of 2% raises over each of the next three years.
Union officials also said they had asked the New York attorney general to examine the Met’s heavy draws from its endowment.
The endowment stood at $267 million as of July 11, down from $305.8 million in July 2006, according to the Met.
Well, depends what they’ve been spending their endowment on, right?
(yes, I know all about Prince Igor and the field of poppies)
On Friday, the orchestra union presented an 84-page proposal to Met officials, blaming the box-office drop on Mr. Gelb’s artistic choices and proposing $31 million in alternative cost savings.
The proposals included lowering ticket prices, shortening rehearsals and decreasing the number of new productions.
The orchestra also presented an analysis of music critics’ reviews, concluding that Mr. Gelb’s new productions have received more negative coverage than positive.
I have not seen all the new productions, but I’ve got to say their latest production of Falstaff was great. I see some mixed reviews, but on the whole it was a lot of fun. And the Las Vegas Rigoletto was very well done, too.
They’ve been doing a bunch of Russian operas, which I’m not much into (currently), but that’s a matter of taste.
The question is: do the opera audiences enjoy it, and is it bringing in more people? It doesn’t sound like the second is occurring. Well, I shall do my bit.
The main critique I’ve seen was of The Death of Klinghoffer, and the main critique was that they would do the piece at all, not about the quality of the production….because it hasn’t even played yet!
But let us go back to the wrangling:
Of the three biggest unions, the stagehands have adopted the most moderate tone, suggesting that they would be willing to consider concessions—with a caveat.
“We’re willing to tighten our belts, but Peter Gelb has to cut up his credit cards,” said Joe Hartnett, who is coordinating negotiations for six units of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
That union is the second group to appeal directly to board members.
In a letter dated July 18 and posted online Monday, union president Matthew Loeb asked board members to encourage Mr. Gelb to bargain with “a more collaborative spirit,” arguing that management had shown “blindness” to potential savings.
Mr. Neuman said the Met intends to work collaboratively to reach an agreement, and noted that administrative staff would take cuts on par with negotiated union reductions.
I hope they do work this out, because I would love to see some of the new productions planned (I have an online subscription, so I only get to see/hear the ones they record — should the unions get shut out, I still have a huge catalog of recordings to view/listen, but no new ones). I really want to see The Merry Widow — looks like that should be a fun one.
But in the mean time, here is working song to inspire the unions:
Opera for Beginners: Largo al Factotum and Figaro
Escheatment: Looking for change in the couch cushions
Amassing Predictions for 2016