AFM President Discusses Kentucky Opera Talks

The Kentucky Opera could be bound for the American Federation of Musicians’ ‘unfair list’ if it seeks outside players for performances next month.

With the orchestra labor dispute still going, the opera has no easy source for musicians. Opera management struck a deal last month with orchestra players to accompany Carmen, but that deal cost the company $33,000 more than expected. The opera is seeking a simpler deal for next month’s Marriage of Figaro performances, but the union has requested the Carmen deal be replicated.

Opera director David Roth says if an affordable deal isn’t struck, then he’ll have to decide whether to seek outside players or use pianos instead of a pit orchestra.

“Have you ever heard an opera played by two pianos?” says AFM International President Ray Hair. “If you ever heard an opera played by two pianos once, I don’t think you’d  ever want to hear it again.”

Roth admits it may be difficult to find other players. Hair says such action could hurt the opera’s reputation with the union.

“The local union has the right to ask that the AFM place the name of that employer on the international unfair list of the American Federation of Musicians. If they ask us to do that, then we will,” he says.

The Louisville Orchestra is already on the unfair list. Union members who play for listed organizations face potentially career-ending fines and penalties.