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Lyric Opera of Chicago Cancels Performances Due To Musicians Strike

It was previously reported that the Lyric Opera of Chicago had reached deals with four unions following ongoing negotiations with many of the opera's stakeholders. The opera had reached agreements with Stagehands Local 2, Wardrobe Local 769, Hair and Make-Up Local 476 and Treasurers and Ticket Sellers Local 750, according to Lyric Opera and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).

An agreement with the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) was pending ratification but was expected to be extended through the 2020-2021 season.

Yesterday BroadwayWorld had learned that The Chicago Federation of Musicians (CFM) Local #10-208 is on strike at Lyric Opera, following a breakdown in negotiations. As a result, the following performances have now been canceled:

-Lyric Uncorked on October 9 at 6pm
-Puccini's LA BOHÈME on Thursday, October 11 at 2pm
-Open House Chicago, Saturday, October 13 at 9am
-Opening Night of Mozart's IDOMENEO on Saturday, October 13 at 7:30pm

A statement released by the opera notes:

The Chicago Federation of Musicians (CFM) Local #10-208 is on strike at Lyric Opera. This unnecessary and harmful action may require Lyric to cancel performances. Ryan Opera Center, Lyric Unlimited and other related activities also will be affected. Additional updates will be provided as these determinations are made.

We apologize for the inconvenience and losses this disruption creates for our patrons, donors, partners and other dedicated employees, and are doing everything possible to protect as much of our season. That said, Lyric simply cannot agree to the terms CFM demands, given our current financial circumstances. Our proposed changes are necessary to ensure Lyric's survival as a world-class opera company providing a diverse range of cultural entertainment to communities throughout Chicago.

We offered CFM wage increases in exchange for a reduction in guaranteed work weeks that better aligns with audience demand and increased scheduling flexibility that will allow us to access additional rental income. The leadership of our other two unions - the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) - recognized the need for these essential changes and have agreed to multi-year agreements. Only CFM refused. Lyric urges CFM to continue to talk and perform.

A statement from the musician's union notes that some of the concessions being demanded by the opera include cutting the number of Orchestra musicians by eliminating five positions, cutting the pay of the remaining Orchestra musicians by 8%, cutting the number of Opera performances, hand-in-hand with cutting the number of working weeks for the Orchestra from 24 to 22, and eliminating all of Lyric's popular radio broadcasts.

The musician's union also notes that the Lyric's budget has gone up in recent years, from $60.4 million in 2012 to $84.5 million in 2017 (the most recent year for which audited financials are available). They also note that meanwhile, the orchestra's share of the budget has decreased steadily, from 14.6% in 2012 to 11.9% in 2017. They note that since 2011, their weekly salary has increased an average of less than 1% per year; and adjusted for inflation, those wages have actually decreased by 5.1% since 2011.

BroadwayWorld will continue to follow this story.

Lyric Opera of Chicago's mission is to express and promote the life-changing, transformational, revelatory power of great opera. Lyric exists to provide a broad, deep, and relevant cultural service to Chicago and the nation, and to advance the development of the art form.

Founded in 1954, Lyric is dedicated to producing and performing consistently thrilling, entertaining, and thought-provoking opera with a balanced repertoire of core classics, lesser-known masterpieces, and new works; to creating an innovative and wide-ranging program of community engagement and educational activities; and to developing exceptional emerging operatic talent.

Under the leadership of general director, president & CEO Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis, and creative consultant Renée Fleming, Lyric strives to become The Great North American Opera Company for the 21st century: a globally significant arts organization embodying the core values of excellence, relevance, and fiscal responsibility.

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