Opera is cancelled due to new California law

Opera is cancelled due to new California law


norman lebrecht

January 09, 2020

Island City Opera has suspended a March production of Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers due to the imposition of a new California emplyment law which came into force on January 1.

The law, which is designed to stop ‘gig work’, is being interpreted by ICO’s lawyers to affect freelance performers in an opera production.

That could have widespread implications at SanFran and LA Opera.

More detail here.

The Wreckers, huh?



  • Karl says:

    They wrecked The Wreckers! Too bad. They did it at Bard a few years back and it is well worth seeing.

  • V.Lind says:

    It could have implications far beyond those you mention. While I applaud the determination to stop the employer practice of firing employees and replacing them with contractors on a fulltime basis — thereby wriggling out of paying the employer share of the benefits workers have fought for over the decades — there are any number of situations where work is not done on an employee basis, and nor does the person involved want it to be.

    The California legislature would appear to have an almost absolute ignorance of how the arts work. Obviously, small companies are the most vulnerable, but this could surely affect larger arts organisations that use guest artists coaches and staff as well. To say nothing of its application in other fields.

    It would be a very great shame if this production were not to continue as scheduled but if its complaint manages to get the legislature to rethink their law it may be worth it in the long run.

  • christopher storey says:

    I think they need to consult competent lawyers. I lay stress on the penultimate word.On the face of it, the C of the ABC test will apply to nearly every freelance musician, singer, conductor etc. : since they hire themselves out to numerous different bodies, in many cases worldwide, they are plainly carrying out an independent enterprise in the trade, and therefore do not fall within the ambit of employment under the statute

  • Tony says:

    That’s Californication, land of the heathen and the socialist Shangri-La. San Francisco and Los Angeles became shitholes. Their downtown streets seen those of Mumbai. Absurd cost of living, high taxes and unbearable regulations will make the state sink if traitor demonrats remain in power.

    • MSD says:

      Forget to put on your tinfoil hat today, Tony?

      • Karl says:

        Tony is right. Homelessness has been on a general downward trend for the past decade, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness – except for California where it is rising. From NYT:
        “No matter how you look at it, the answer is bleak. California has a staggering number of homeless people compared with the rest of the country.

        California’s homeless population last year was almost 130,000, nearly a quarter of the national total, federal data showed. ”

      • Stuart says:

        Disregarding the political comment that Tony made, the situation in California is much as Tony describes. My wife was born in LA during the sixties, and we have lived in both Northern California and Southern California for years. We no longer recognize the LA that we knew 20 years ago. Both SF and LA have undergone profound changes due to the changing economics and judicial reform. Cost of housing is out of control. Homelessness is a huge issue in both cities. We relocated from Northern San Diego county to Middle Tennessee at the end of 2018. Our cost of living is 44% lower here than in California. The people running these places are engaged in a social experiment that does not seem to be paying off. Eliminating laws rather than enforcing them, raising taxes and increasing regulation will continue to push the middle to leave. This will increase rather than decrease the income inequality in cities such as SF and LA. Not a good trend. It is not an issue of politics but governance. Now back to opera and classical music…

        • Tony says:

          Oh, please…You acknowledge it’s a social experiment and then say it has nothing to do with politics, as if governance and politics were different issues. This is cynicism. Sorry if I offend your political creed and show your complete lack of congruence, but the fact is, if demonrats remain in charge, this social engeneering will be spread all across America. Bloomberg already stated that California got it right, and this man wants to be president. Demonrats want to destroy America from within, this is crystal-clear. America’s external enemies won’t need to fire a missile to have what they want. People who vote for these traitors do not deserve that beatiful country. You should na ashamed!

          • Stuart says:

            Hey Tony. An odd response since I was in many ways supporting your view. Your response is an example of how civil discourse is being undermined by narrow-mindedness and addiction to social media and cable news. Governance and politics are different issues and the basic definition of social experiment has nothing to do with politics. It is a sad, narrow existence when one views all things through a political lens. I am neither offended nor ashamed and you know nothing of my political creed (or even if I have one). A tip off to your arrogance is offering up such a tired and overused phrase like “you should be ashamed.” Classic cable news. Oh, please…

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Ever been there?

    • MacroV says:

      Yes, California is such a s-hole, it’s imPOSSIBLE to find a place to live. LOL!

      The food here is terrible!
      And the portions are so small!

  • M McAlpine says:

    At first glance this would appear to be another own goal by ignorant law makers. Many musicians are free-lance and go from one ‘gig’ to another. Laws like this stop freedom of employment.

  • Toddsail says:

    Left-wing Liberals at their best….

    • Cubs Fan says:

      The do-gooders strike again. They never seem to understand the Law of Unintended Consequences. They know best and the public just needs to shut up and do what they say. It will never change in California; they’ll keep voting for the same simple-minded Marxists. While the Trump economy is adding jobs at a record pace, Newsom seems to want to destroy them as fast as he can.

    • BrianB says:

      I prefer the term leftists, period. Or Ill-liberals. The Left destroys everything it touches. Genuine liberals do not.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    This bill was percolating through the CA legislature for a year at least so the arts orgs had ample time to make their case for an exception, of which there are several in the law.

    But what case is there to be made? The singers and musicians who perform in operas are obviously workers for the opera company and not like a lawyer that one engages to defend your DWI.

  • anon says:

    Thank goodness Corbyn lost the general election… no doubt, he would have imposed similar rules in the UK.

  • MacroV says:

    I’m assuming the California legislature did not intend to include singers and make-up artists in small-scale opera productions under this law; they’re trying to keep large companies like Uber from getting all the benefits of having employees, while shedding the liabilities. But it’s difficult in general to craft legislation sufficiently nuanced to cover every situation. I assume regulations or court rulings will ultimately deal with unintended consequences like these.

  • LA Opera and SF Opera are both W-2 employee jobs this this would not affect them.

  • Sharon says:

    Why should musicians be gig workers when they are frequently up to their eyeballs in debt with student loans and work very hard? Give the musicians and other performers the protections of “on the books” employees like health insurance,unemployment insurance and social security pensions. They deserve it

    If the small performing companies can coordinate their schedules through institutions such as regional arts councils why not also consolidate office and backroom functions such as payroll, ticketing, publicity and processing donations? The regional organization can decide what to do inhouse and what to outsource to profit making companies but it would surely be cheaper for the local opera company to pay a fee to the regional organization than try to do all the work itself

    I understand that there is some effort to do this in NYC for the NY off-off Broadway theater world although I forget the name of the outfit doing it. In the US Profit making outfits, like movie theaters have been doing this through franchises, chains and computer ticketing and publicity outfits like moviephone and Fandango for many years. When there’s a will there’s a way.

  • Laura says:

    The legislature gave out exemptions to numerous other professions, but declined to extend exemptions to musicians. Why??? This needs to be pursued. If a hairdresser can have an exemption then why not a musician?