Metropolitan Opera and Orchestra Reach Deal, Allowing Season to Start

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The Metropolitan Opera reached a four-year agreement with the union for its orchestra, the last major deal needed for the company to resume performances following a 1 1/2-year layoff caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The contract with local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, ratified Tuesday (August 24), replaced an agreement that expired July 31.

“The members of the Met’s great orchestra have been through Herculean challenges during the 16 months of the shutdown, as we struggled to keep the company intact,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, in a statement. “Now, we look forward to rebuilding and returning to action.” To commemorate the occasion, the Met announced two free, pre-season performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection,” to take place in Damrosch Park on Sept. 4 and Sept. 5.

The announcement follows a four-year deal ratified last month by Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which represents stagehands and ended a lockout that started Dec. 8. The Met reached a four-year agreement in May with the American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents the chorus and solo artists. The company has not performed since March 11, 2020, because of the pandemic, canceling 276 performances plus an international tour.

The labor strife led to a large protest rally in May. The Met plans to resume performances in its house at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts with a Verdi requiem on Sept. 11 to mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. The season starts on Sept. 27 with the Met premiere of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, the company’s first work by a Black composer. Company expenses largely are determined by its 15 union contracts, and the orchestra, chorus and stagehands are the three most significant agreements.

There are smaller expired deals with Teamsters, designers and scenic artists, box office employees, camera crews, painters, bill posters and high-definition broadcast directors. Contracts of the wardrobe and costume shop, wigs and makeup, engineers and mechanics, the call center, and service employees expire next July.

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