Credit: courtesy Chicago Federation of Musicians

Update 4:15 PM: Thursday’s performance of La Bohème and Saturday’s opening of Idomeneo have both been cancelled.


The Lyric Opera orchestra went on strike at 10 AM today, canceling rehearsals and putting Thursday’s scheduled 2 PM performance of La Bohème and Saturday’s 7 PM opening of Idomeneo in doubt. 

A statement from the orchestra says the strike is necessary “because a world-class opera company needs a world-class orchestra. That is now in danger.”

The statement adds that Lyric management is demanding “radical cuts that would decimate the Orchestra.”

The cuts include cutting five musician positions, cutting pay by 8 percent, reducing the number of working weeks for the orchestra from 24 to 22, and eliminating all Lyric radio broadcasts.

According to the orchestra’s statement, while the Lyric’s budget grew from $60 million in 2012 to $84 million in 2017, the weekly salary for musicians increased an average of less than 1 percent annually and, when adjusted for inflation, decreased by just over 5 percent since 2011. The orchestra is represented by the Chicago Federation of Musicians.

Lyric management acknowledged in a statement this morning that performances and other events may have to be canceled. “Lyric simply cannot agree to the terms CFM demands, given our current financial circumstances,” the statement read. “Our proposed changes are necessary to ensure Lyric’s survival. . . . We offered CFM wage increases in exchange for a reduction in guaranteed work weeks that better aligns with audience demand and increased scheduling flexibility that will allow us to access additional rental income.”

William Cernota, speaking on behalf of the orchestra members, says the orchestra offered Lyric scheduling flexibility months ago, and that “Lyric is lying because they want to distract from what they’re doing with their cut-and-slash agenda—demolishing Lyric Opera and asking the musicians to pay for the demolition.”

The American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) recently signed multiyear Lyric contracts. 

Correction: Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) recently agreed to new Lyric contracts, and the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) has presented a contract to its membership for ratification.

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