City Opera Files Complaint Against Musicians Union; Saber Rattling Gets Louder

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The struggling New York City Opera has accused the head of its musicians union of threatening members who choose to take work with the company without a contract in place.

In a filing Monday with the National Labor Relations Board, the company alleged that the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) has “threatened to embarrass and ostracize” any member who accepted struck work. “This intimidation is clearly coercive and violates the performers’ right to choose to work for the Opera regardless of the current collective bargaining dispute,” the filing read in part.

The opera and its musicians are engaged in difficult contract negotiations. Musicians are also protesting the company's decision to leave its permanent home at Lincoln Center, due to the high cost.

City Opera also accused AGMA executive director Alan Gordon of warning musicians that he would not approve any performer contract unless there is a new collective bargaining agreement in place.

In a press release, Gordon fired back against City Opera general director George Steel. He accused him of a pattern of “making false accusations and pretextual charges without any merit against anyone who dares to criticize his skewed artistic vision. There’s absolutely nothing improper about telling our members who might do struck work that they will have to carry the reputation of being strikebreakers for the rest of their careers.”

City Opera did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, the music staff of the New York City Opera continues to dwindle. Kevin Murphy, a respected vocal coach, said on Thursday that he would leave his position as the company's director of music administration to take a faculty post at Indiana University.