photo by Emily Mathews
On Tuesday morning, the Lyric Opera’s Orchestra announced that it would be going on strike for this season at the Opera House.
“Over the past 65 years, Chicago’s citizens, civic leaders, and philanthropists built a world-class opera company for a world-class city,” the announcement said. “The Lyric Opera Orchestra has been a key part of that, renowned for its artistry and exquisite sound. But Anthony Freud and Lyric Management are demanding radical cuts that would decimate the Orchestra and forever diminish the Lyric Opera of Chicago.”
The cuts proposed would be to remove five orchestral musician positions, cut pay for the entire remaining orchestra by 8%, cut the number of Opera performances and effectively shortening the working season, and to eliminate the Lyric’s radio broadcasts.
“Lyric exploded its budget 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),” the announcment said. “But the Orchestra saw none of that $24 million increase. To the contrary, the Orchestra’s share of the budget has decreased steadily, from 14.6% in 2012 to 11.9% in 2017. If Lyric wants to make cuts, it is looking in the wrong place.”
The announcement goes on to cite the nature of discourse between management and musicians at the Opera House. The numbers for ticket sales have been painted as poor and are considered unimportant by management.
“Ticket sales are down, they will keep going down, and then they will keep going down,” Deputy General Director and Chief Operating Officer Drew Landmesser said.
According to the orchestra’s research, this is a blatant lie. According to their research, the Lyric’s ticket sales went from $25.03 million in 2012 to $25.95 million in 2018.
“That doesn’t look like a horror show to us,” the announcement said. “And Lyric’s fill rate of 84% of the house is the envy of other opera companies.”
You can read the entire announcement on their facebook page below:
Daniel Johanson (he/him) is a journalist and digital media specialist living in Chicago, Illinois. He serves as Editor-in-Chief at Scapi and in that capacity manages all things content, including writing and editing articles and producing digital content. His most recent work includes the docuseries Heart of a Nation: Tracking Socialism in the Midwest and co-hosting the podcast Scapi Radio. He spends his free time with cats.