This Month’s Kentucky Opera Performances to Use Pianos Instead of Orchestra

by Gabe Bullard on November 17, 2011

Ending weeks of speculation, the Kentucky Opera has officially announced that it will use two pianos and a harpsichord as its musical accompaniment for this week’s performances of the Marriage of Figaro.

The opera has used musicians from the Louisville Orchestra for performances in the past, but as the dispute between orchestra management and players has dragged on, the opera has been left to ink its own deals. For September’s performances of Carmen, the opera signed musicians to a contract that was essentially a shorter version of the previous orchestra contract.

That caused the opera to go $33,000 over budget, so a leaner (but more standard for short runs) per-performance contract was sought. The musicians hoped to follow the precedent set during Carmen, and declined the offer.

Opera Director David Roth said last month that the opera would seek other musicians. If they could not be found, Roth said pianos could be used.

“[Using pianos would] be a situation that would be unfortunate for everyone,” Roth told WFPL at the time. “And certainly a situation we don’t want to go to.”

The national America Federation of Musicians then placed the opera on the unfair list, meaning any union members who played for the opera would face fines and penalties.

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

In the subsequent weeks, Roth declined to comment on the plans for the Marriage of Figaro, only saying that he hoped the orchestra standoff would end so the musicians could come back to work. Now, on the day before opening night, a letter has been posted to the Opera’s website and sent to subscribers.

From the statement:

KO is confident the performances will be spectacular, offering the Ultimate Opera Experience while maintaining KO’s commitment to artistic excellence and fiscal responsibility. The intimacy of the Brown Theatre lends itself to Mozart’s salon style comedy. KO has assembled exceptional artists from across the nation, a stage director who has fashioned a truly theatrical reading of Mozart’s classic comedy. With her vision, KO has designed and built a beautiful new set to kick off KO’s four-year Mozart Cycle.

 

And here’s what the Kentucky Opera’s Marriage of Figaro sounds like with pianos:

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