A pay dispute between New York City Opera (NYCO) and unions has led to the first rehearsals of the new season being cancelled.
Talks broke down over the weekend, threatening the cancellation of the spring season, which begins on February 12th with La Traviata.
Facing budget cuts, the opera company has planned to remove salaries for musicians, instead paying them only for the rehearsals and concerts they are in.
This could dramatically reduce the wages of musicians.
“City Opera had no other choice but to lock them out as the company cannot afford to pay for rehearsals when the unions have pledged to strike the performances,” the company’s general manager and artistic director, George Steel, said.
The NYCO has already had to move its location to other venues due to the cuts. It has been at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts since 1966.
Gail Kruvand, chairwoman of the American Federation of Musicians, the union that represents the company’s orchestra, told the Associated Press the NYCO’s rejection of proposals could be “the death knell for one of New York’s cultural treasures”.
Stage directors, principal singers and the chorus, meanwhile, are represented by the American Guild of Musical Artists.
For many people, the NYCO is a more popular opera company because of its willingness to perform unusual works as well as classics and offer cheaper tickets than its rival the Metropolitan Opera. Indeed, one of the four planned operas of the upcoming season is pop star Rufus Wainwright’s foray into opera, Prima Dona.
It has faced major financial troubles for the past few months and musicians face a cut to their average annual income from $40,000 (£26,000) to $5,000 for two productions.
Ms Kruvand suggested that the NYCO has suffered recently after George Steel chose to present less-popular 20th century operas that do not sell as many tickets.
The NYCO is also due to perform Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte and Telemann’s Orpheus.
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