Lyric management is short-term winner with new musicians contract

Tue Oct 16, 2018 at 12:33 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Lyric Opera musicians voted to accept the company’s contract offer after a four-and-one-half-hour meeting on Sunday that was filled with a great deal of emotion and tears, sources said.

The Chicago Federation of Musicians union appears to have blinked first in the five-day standoff between the Lyric Opera of Chicago and members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra.

Sources said that management was preparing to cancel the entire first half of the season through December and hang the blame for it around the musicians’ necks. Faced with the personal economic loss that would mean for themselves and their families—and the international PR disaster and public outcry that would ensue against the musicians as well as the company—they accepted the offer.

Lyric management got nearly everything it wanted in the new three-year contract, which runs through the 2020-21 season. 

The musicians did elicit a 5.6% pay increase in weekly salary and the guarantee of five additional weeks of work in 2020 for performances of the complete Ring cycle. They also increased by 6.6% the (previously agreed upon) lower salary for the 37 orchestra musicians who perform in the spring musicals.

The company won on the reduction of the Lyric Opera Orchestra, slicing out four positions (they had originally asked for five) and cutting the roster from 74 players to 70. They also succeeded in reducing the 2019-2020 season by two weeks from 24 to 22.

As is usual with non-opera business matters in the current era, the Lyric Opera press office would not provide interviews or contract details beyond its official statement on Sunday that the contract had been ratified.

While it’s a relief for Lyric employees and Chicago opera audiences that the strike has been settled, it seems unlikely that the residual bad feelings in the wake of this labor conflict will heal anytime soon. Said one musician, “I think there’s going to be a lot of bitterness over this for a long time to come.”

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2 Responses to “Lyric management is short-term winner with new musicians contract”

  1. Posted Oct 16, 2018 at 1:56 pm by Iowa Dad

    The Lyric Opera orchestra one of the world’s artistic treasures!

    Management’s disgusting threat to replace it with a pick-up orchestra reveals its total lack of appreciation for the extremely high quality of the playing we have heard of the past half decade. Has Freud ever personally voiced support his orchestra? Or even mounted a full-throated campaign to boost grand opera?

    Lyric needs to managed by someone who appreciates Grand Opera, and someone who appreciates the sound of a world class orchestra. And that obviously is not Freud.

    He must go!

  2. Posted Oct 19, 2018 at 11:20 am by Geo.

    One way to express support for the Lyric Opera Orchestra musicians now is to earmark donations to Lyric Opera strictly for the orchestra.

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