The Metropolitan Opera is anticipating a significant labor lockout beginning August 1, the Wall Street Journal reported. “The Met cannot continue on its current economic path; we must find cost reductions,” director Peter Gelb wrote in a letter to union staff Wednesday. Contracts with 15 of the Met’s 16 unions are set to expire at the end of the month, and both parties report that an agreement is not in sight.
Among the affected unions are those representing singers, orchestra musicians, and stagehands, the paper noted, adding that a strike hasn’t taken place at the institution since an 11-week orchestra lockout in 1980. (The New York Times added that a previous strike took place in 1969.)
Though the Met isn’t set to open until September 22, a strike would substantially affect the preparatory process and could delay the start of the season. The Times also cautions that “it took years” for the Met to return to the subscriber levels that preceded the 1969 interruption. The Met’s flagging financial health is symptomatic of both the institution and opera at large (see, for example, the closure last year of the New York City Opera).
Earlier this month, the critic James Panero offered a well-reasoned take on the Met conflict at City Journal, chronicling the excesses of the Gelb administration (the director’s million-dollar compensation includes a chauffeur) alongside the high costs of union orchestra labor amid a shifted audience reality. “[B]oth sides need to stop comparing their pay packages and begin proving their worth to a new opera public,” he wrote.