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City Opera Unions Offer to Work for Free

(Jennifer Maloney, Metropolis, Wall Street Journal) New York City Opera choristers and orchestra members have offered to perform for free this season in exchange for health care and power over future venues, in a bid to stop the opera from eliminating their guaranteed employment.

The offer comes in the midst of volatile contract negotiations between City Opera and its unions. The company, facing recurring deficits and a shrinking endowment, launched a plan earlier this year to leave its Lincoln Center home and slash its budget from $31 million to $13 million.

The opera also eliminated more than a dozen staff and its music-director position. The union says the company is threatening to cut members’ salaries to one-tenth of what they made last season and essentially make them freelancers.

In a negotiation session Friday, the opera’s unions – Associated Musicians of Greater New York Local 802 and the American Guild of Musical Artists–proposed an unusual power-sharing agreement with the company’s management, according to a statement from the unions expected to be released Monday.