- by Jacob Coakley
in Theatre Buzz
On Tuesday, July 12, the unions representing the musicians, singers, and dancers working on the New York City Opera staged a protest outside the Guggenheim Museum, minutes before George Steel, the general manager and artistic director of New York City Opera, was to present the upcoming season plans for the opera. The protest was triggered by Steel’s plans—announced in May—to have the Opera leave Lincoln Center, and perform in various venues around New York City. This move was accompanied by the Opera opening new contract negotiations with its production unions that would eliminate guarantees of work, vacation pay and health insurance.
The protest was organized by the American Guild of Musical Artists and Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians. Local 802 represents the orchestra members, while the guild represents the chorus, singers, stage managers and assistant directors. Tino Gagliardi, the Local 802 president, started the event by declaring the protest was intended to “Express our outrage and protest the expulsion of NYC Opera from its home at Lincoln center.” He then introduced Catherine Malfitano, a former City Opera soprano who has been active in organizing against the move. “To perform with a pickup orchestra is insane,” said Malfitano.
Inside the Guggenheim, at their press conference Steel and the Opera defended their cuts as necessary to keep the Opera alive, and presented the varying venues—including free performances in the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park—as a way to bring opera closer to the people.
Gail Kruvand, chairwoman of the orchestra’s negotiating committee, told the New York Times that the cuts were “devastating” and that “It essentially eliminates the orchestra as we know it.” The Opera’s current production contracts expired in the spring, but the terms of the contract remained in effect.
Below is a video of the protest from SaveNYCO. The Opera did not make a video available, but the press release announcing their plans for the season (it does not address contract concerns) can be found here.