Virtual Orchestra Controversy Continues as Board Members Leave Brooklyn Opera Company

News   Virtual Orchestra Controversy Continues as Board Members Leave Brooklyn Opera Company The use of "virtual orchestras" — the issue at the heart of last season's strike by Broadway musicians — is at the center of a dispute roiling the small Opera Company of Brooklyn.

On Aug. 9, the company plans to present a one-night-only production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, using no live musicians, but only a virtual orchestra. According to the New York Times, the event has resulted in the resignation of two members of the outfit's board, the well known opera singers Deborah Voigt and Marilyn Horne.

The resignations were preceded by a letter-writing campaign by Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, which led to Horne getting 95 e-mails over 48 hours. Local 802 is the same union that led the strike against Broadway producers this past March. The strike, which was joined by the unions representing stage actors, stagehands and several other Broadway professions, lasted for four business-crippling days before Mayor Michael Bloomberg forced the two sides to hammer out an agreement.

The company that furnished Opera Company of Brooklyn with its technological musical substitute was RealTime Music Solutions, which worked with some Broadway producers during the months leading up to the strike. RealTime also furnished the opera troupe with a theatre for The Magic Flute, the Voorhees Theater at the New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn.

Jay D. Meetze, the artistic director of the opera company, told the Times he could not afford a live orchestra, noting a growing deficit. "I would prefer live music, but I wanted something more than a piano could produce," he said. He hoped to raise enough money to present two operas with orchestra in the coming season, but told the Times he would go forth with the Aug. 9 concert as planned.

The musicians union fears computerized orchestras will lead to underemployment of its membership, as producers and companies seek to defray production costs.