Chicago musicians take cut to ensure others get paid

Musicians of the Lyric Opera have voted to receive less than full pay so that Ring extras can also be paid.

Here’s what they say:

As COVID-19 began sweeping across the United States, the Lyric Opera of Chicago management made the heartbreaking but necessary decision to cancel Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle, scheduled to be performed three times this spring. Following the announcement, Lyric Opera management told musician representatives that the regular orchestra members would be paid for the remaining seven weeks of the season. Unfortunately, that generous offer could not be extended to the many extra musicians involved in the Ring Cycle.

In response, the musician representatives worked collaboratively with Lyric management on a solution in which the regular orchestra members would receive less than full pay, with the savings allocated to extra and stage band musicians. Yesterday, the regular members of the Orchestra unanimously voted to approve that solution, thus ensuring that all musicians will receive a weekly paycheck through the end of the previously scheduled Ring Cycle performances.

The Musicians of the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra consider the 43 extra Ring Cycle musicians to be a part of their family. Allowing the extra musicians to go without a paycheck was simply unacceptable to the orchestra. For the past four years, regular and extra musicians have worked side-by-side, painstakingly preparing and performing one opera from the Ring per season in order to present the massive four-opera Ring Cycle this spring. 

For the Musicians of the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra, the choice was clear:  they must care for their entire Ring orchestra family.

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  • This warms the cockles of my heart. I’ve received my refund. I’m tempted to send it back, but I’d like to see a little less chaos in the financial markets before I do so.

  • While there may unfortunately still be some financial casualties in this situation, altruistic actions such as this only emphasise the greedy self-centredness of those in big business who have laid-off staff and are seeking state support for their immense, private-fortune-generating enterprises.

  • A beautiful think for the regular musician core to do for all the extras and the stage employees. You all have so much class and empathy!

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