The small company announced last summer that it would use the electronic device in place of musicians for a production of The Magic Flute. After protests from Local 802, the New York musicians' union, which is bitterly opposed to the notion of an electronic orchestra, opera stars Deborah Voigt and Marilyn Horne resigned from the company's board. Months later, the company signed a contract with the union agreeing not to use the machine‹but later claimed that it had been forced into the deal.
According to Musical America, the union and the OCB were scheduled to meet with the Employment Relations Board about the issue yesterday, but that meeting has been postponed until February. In the meantime, the company is apparently determined to demonstrate its right to use the machine.
"With only a limited budget, our goal is to use this sophisticated instrument to help build a new audience for opera," artistic director Jay Meetze said in a statement. "While some see controversy in the use of the Sinfonia, we see opportunity. It is a vital new means of musical expression and represents an important way for us to bring opera to a new generations."
In an interview with PlaybillArts.com, David Lennon, the president of Local 802, expressed anger over the company's move "to unilaterally rescind a binding agreement," and dismissed the idea that the Sinfonia device could replace live music for performances. "It is no more a musical instrument than a tape recorder," he said.
"We will continue to fight any and all attempts to destroy live music in New York City, the live-music capital of the world," Lennon added.
The Sinfonia, which is leased to performing groups by Realtime Music Solutions, uses a series of recorded samples to simulate an orchestral performance. According to the company, the machine allows a live performer to control tempo and other subtleties.