Opera, Musicians at Impasse Over Next Performances

The dispute between the Louisville Orchestra musicians and management has spilled over to the Kentucky Opera.

The orchestra provides musicians for the opera, but without an orchestra contract, the opera has no easy means of securing players. Opera management and musicians reached an agreement for last month’s performances of Carmen, but talks for upcoming shows are proving more difficult.

The Carmen contract was essentially a three-week version of the previous orchestra contract, but opera director David Roth says it cost the company $33,000 more than it should have.

“We had a lot at risk,” he says. “We needed to reach that agreement. We were forced into a set of circumstances we cannot accept going forward.”

Roth is trying to secure a simpler—and less expensive—per-performance contract for next month’s performance of the Marriage of Figaro. But he says the national union wants to replicate the Carmen deal.

“We cannot accept it for the Marriage of Figaro and if we have to, we will seek other options for music in the Merry Widow as well.”

The other options for music would be to either find replacement players—a difficult task given the union’s involvement—or use pianos instead of a pit orchestra.

“It’d be a situation that would be unfortunate for everyone,” says Roth. “And certainly a situation we don’t want to go to. That’s why we have made this offer to the local union. But we will not be held hostage because of a collective bargaining agreement that we are not a part of.”

The musicians released a statement saying the opera is acting as a wing of the orchestra management in negotiations.

The last communication from David Roth to the musicians directly was when he addressed the orchestra less than a month ago at a rehearsal for Carmen, when he thanked us all “from the bottom of his heart” for making the Carmen agreement possible and for being there – even though we all know the orchestra suffered the effects of the LOI’s actions this year.  The agreement we played under for Carmen conceded numerous provisions from the agreement under which the Orchestra has always played.  There was no proposal from Roth, let alone agreement, that the terms couldn’t be repeated – we’re willing, but Roth doesn’t want even to meet.
The opera and orchestra share some offices and services.