Orchestra musicians had rejected management's previous offer last Monday (November 6) and had threatened to strike during the season-opening run of Verdi's Nabucco, which had its first performance last Friday (November 10). According to The Dallas Morning News, the players' negotiating committee approved the company's final offer on Friday afternoon, only a few hours before curtain time; the musicians went ahead with opening night and then met the following morning for a full rank-and-file vote on the agreement.
The new contract, which passed by what the Morning News indicates was a small margin, grants annual raises of 3% in each of the first three years, 4.8% in the fourth year and 5% in the final year — making a cumulative pay increase of slightly more than 20%. Musicians will be contracted for 16 weeks' work plus a week of paid vacation in the first three years, then 17 weeks of work and one week of paid vacation in the last two years. As the term of the agreement covers the Dallas Opera's anticipated move into the new Winspear Opera House in the fall of 2009, there are provisions for a potential increase in the number of operas and performances each season, spread out over a longer time period than is currently used. (Dallas Opera now presents five operas back-to-back between November and February.)
The most contentious part of the contract — and the one responsible for the closeness of the vote, according to the Morning News — is company management's plan to reduce the core orchestra (musicians contracted for all operas in the season) from 57 to 53 players.
"I'm just really happy that we've reached an agreement," Dallas Opera general director Karen Stone told the newspaper. "It's hugely important to the Opera to be able to do a finance plan for the next five years, to take us into the [new] opera house. Having just gotten out of a deficit situation, it's important for us to plan for the future."
Nabucco continues for two more performances, on November 15 and 18, at Fair Park Music Hall in Dallas. More information is available at www.dallasopera.org.