Lyric Opera Orchestra on strike; performances canceled through Saturday

  • There is turmoil at Chicago's Civic Opera House. On Tuesday, the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra went on strike.

    There is turmoil at Chicago's Civic Opera House. On Tuesday, the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra went on strike. Cheri Eisenberg/Lyric Opera of Chicago, 2005

 
 
Updated 10/9/2018 5:40 PM

Lyric Opera of Chicago orchestra members went on strike Tuesday, imperiling the 2018-2019 season days after its opening coproduction of Puccini's "La Boheme."

The strike forced the cancellation of ticketed performances through Saturday, including a "La Boheme" matinee on Thursday, Oct. 11; the Choir! Choir! Choir! tribute to Fleetwood Mac on Friday, Oct. 12, and the Saturday, Oct. 13 opening of Mozart's "Idomeneo," according to Holly H. Gilson, Lyric's senior director of communications.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Lyric representatives will contact ticket holders by phone with offers of exchanges, refunds or credit, Gilson said.

"We apologize profusely to everyone who is holding tickets for the disruption and the disappointment," Gilson said. "We appreciate their ongoing support and patience and hope to reach a resolution soon."

In a statement, the orchestra said management is demanding an 8 percent pay cut, the elimination of five positions (by attrition and retirement), a reduction in performances and working weeks and the elimination of Lyric's radio broadcasts.

The cuts reduce not only the musicians' take-home pay, but the strength of the orchestra, said Lyric Orchestra bassoonist Lewis Kirk, a spokesman for orchestra members who are represented by the Chicago Federation of Musicians (CFM).

"When you cut the positions you attack the quality of the orchestra," he said. "We're fighting to maintain that quality. Management would like to arbitrarily decide what's important ... but the musical integrity has to come first."

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The Lyric counters that CFM was offered wage increases in exchange for a reduction in guaranteed work weeks that better aligns with audience demand and increased scheduling flexibility to allow for access to additional rental income at the Civic Opera House.

According to Gilson, Lyric reached an agreement with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) last summer. A tentative agreement with the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), which represents Lyric chorus members, awaits ratification, Gilson said.

Lewis said no negotiations are scheduled but adds, "we're ready to negotiate at any time." "Lyric simply cannot agree to the terms CFM demands, given our current financial circumstances," said Lisa Middleton, the Lyric's vice president for marketing and communication in a prepared statement. "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."

Ticket holders with questions can call (312) 827-5600 or check lyricopera.org.

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