Dallas Opera and Its Musicians Without Contract Two Weeks Before Season Opens

Classic Arts News   Dallas Opera and Its Musicians Without Contract Two Weeks Before Season Opens
The Dallas Opera and its union orchestra are without a contract, two weeks before the 50th season opens on November 10 with Verdi's Nabucco, reports The Dallas Morning News.

The opera company has suggested a five-year contract which stipulates a reconfiguration of the season after it moves into the new Winspear Opera House in 2009. The unionized musicians, on the other hand, disagree; they have announced they will picket an upcoming fundraising gala for the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, according to the paper.

This season, the orchestra is scheduled for 17 contiguous weeks of rehearsals and performances from October 30 through February 24. For the 2009-10 season, Dallas Opera wants to present six productions, in repertory pairs, totaling 16 weeks of rehearsal and performances spread over 34 weeks, according to the Morning News.

The paper says that according to the union, Dallas Opera is proposing a 16-week contract raising the base pay from $14,861 last season to $15,637 in 2009-10. But the musicians see it as a 50 percent pay reduction, insisting that the weeks they're not playing should be part of the contract.

"When someone has to play 34 weeks based on 16 weeks of work, that's a difficult thing to do. They're having to plug weeks, and have to go forage in the market," Ray Hair, president of the local union told the paper.

But Karen Stone, general director of the Dallas Opera, said, "There isn't another level-one opera company that performs in contiguous weeks — Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco. The time has come for the Dallas Opera to benchmark itself in a way more representative of the norm."

Orchestra members are also unhappy with a proposal to reduce the core orchestra from 57 to 48 musicians and use freelance players when necessary. The company stresses that the reductions will be through attrition and not layoffs. "Nobody's going to lose their position over this," said Suzanne Calvin, Dallas Opera's Associate Director of Media, Marketing and PR, in an e-mail.

The next negotiating session is scheduled for Friday, November 3; there will be a federal mediator present, according to the paper.

Recommended Reading: