Musicians of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra voted unanimously to authorise a strike if talks failed over improved pay and conditions. Slipped Disc asked the lead negotiator, clarinet player Jessica Phillips Rieske, what they aimed to achieve in the talks. Here is her reasoned reply, principled and clear-sighted. It was written just as the Met’s principal clarinet, Anthony McGill, announced he was crossing the Lincoln Square courtyard to join the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. His defection is a blow to the Met. Jessica’s letter puts the onus on Gelb to restore confidence and demands to know why he shares information with the public that is kept secret from the musicians.
Read Jessica’s statement exclusively below.
Jessica Phillips Rieske, on behalf of Metropolitan Opera Orchestra musicians:
Our overarching goal is to maintain our status as a world-class orchestra. We hope to achieve a contract which will enable us to continue to attract and retain top-tier talent, which is essential to remaining one of the world’s great performing arts institutions.
Musical excellence is the cornerstone upon which the Metropolitan Opera’s reputation is built. Management’s proposals would undermine our ability to remain a destination orchestra, decimating the stature of the Met Opera and propelling it into a downward spiral.
We believe it is of the utmost importance that negotiations be conducted with openness, transparency and accountability. In preparation for upcoming negotiations, The MET Orchestra musicians and Local 802, AFM, have made numerous information requests to management. The requested data is crucial to our ability to conduct informed, good-faith negotiations based in fact.
We have been told that much of the requested information can only be provided on a confidential basis. We have twice formally asked The Met to explain why information to which it continually refers in its own public statements would need to be kept confidential by the orchestra. The Met has not responded. Obviously, we cannot evaluate or publicly comment on statements made by The Met if basic financial and operating information cannot be made public. At the same time, the Met is characterizing its financial situation to the press and public as if its assertions are fully supported by verifiable figures. When we have obtained and analyzed the necessary information and can engage in informed, good-faith discussions, we will promptly do so.