Exclusive: You may now accept other engagements

Exclusive: You may now accept other engagements


norman lebrecht

October 21, 2020

The Lyric Opera of Chicago will confirm later today that its entire season is cancelled through to June 2021.

‘As the State of Illinois moves through its five-phase plan of reopening, performing arts companies on Lyric’s scale are still slated to be part of the final phase.  Operating on anything close to a normal basis until that phase is reached is simply not possible,’ the company is telling artists and their agents.

The one dud note is this: ‘You are now welcome to accept other work that emerges within our original contract period’.

Well, thanks for that.



  • James Weiss says:

    Lyric has been so busy the past few months sending out dozens of virtue-signaling e-mails about Black Lives Matter and how they’re addressing it that they’ve had no time for their artists’ needs whatsoever. Shame on them.

    • Vincent Freeman says:

      Oh, please. As an African American and a patron of Lyric Opera of Chicago for over 40 years, I hope you find time to grow up. I will miss having the opportunity to see/hear their new production of “The Rake’s Progress”. (I love that work.) However, I won’t miss having to answer the perennial question, “Do you know someone, or are you here out of curiosity?” every time I attend a performance there. (Lol!)

    • Anon! A Moose! says:

      You realize that artists’ needs and sending out dozens of emails are two things that aren’t exclusive. Sending a mass email takes but a few minutes and zero dollars. It isn’t taking anything away from taking care of artists.

  • Golaud says:

    ‘You are now welcome to accept other work that emerges within our original contract period’
    Adding insult to injury!
    The lack of courage, leadership and vision is staggering!
    How is it possible for Madrid, Barcelona, Vienna, etc. to be performing and NOTHING happens in the US?

    • John says:

      This has been discussed over and over…
      1. The outbreak of virus in the United States was much worse than in Europe. In New York City, for example, more than 30,000 lives have been lost to Covid. In all of Austria as of this writing, 900 people have died.

      2. European houses are federally funded. That means that these houses can be a quarter full and tax payers make up the difference. This is not a luxury that American houses, which are reliant on donations and ticket sales can afford. Yesterday the Austrian government, for example, announced a further restriction on ticket sales for the Staatsoper starting on Friday. That means the Opera house will have to return some tickets already purchased. No problem– The Bundeskanzler will foot the bill.

      3. In the past 24 hours Ireland and the the Czech Republic have both announced new lockdowns! I suspect other European Cities to follow suit.

    • An Opinionated Woman says:

      How many times does this have to be explained on this site? Okay, once more for the people in the back: US companies do not have the government funding that European countries have. They rely on donors and tickets sales. Donors are not giving enough money and government regulations on capacity restrict ticket sales. Without that income, the companies cannot cover the costs required to put on a show including performer fees, production costs, union fees, etc. The larger the company, the greater the expenses, the harder it is to operate without funding. European companies are smaller and can put on a performances at only 25% capacity because they are not solely reliant on ticket sales and donors. They do make sacrifices too – artist fees are going down, productions budgets are being cut. But they still have enough financial support from the government to carry on. American companies do not have that support. This is a fundamental problem with the Performing Arts in the US. Don’t lay all the blame on the individual leaders of the companies. They are working within a system that doesn’t support them in a crisis. The entire Performing Arts system in the US needs to be blown up and rebuilt from the ground up. That won’t happen overnight.

      • Golaud says:

        You don’t know what you are talking about. Barcelona is playing with 1,000 people. Same for Madrid. Vienna a bit more than 1,000. Fees are lower, orchestra got pay cuts and production costs are kept low (old productions instead of new expensive productions).
        This can work.
        For example the MET instead of spending 250,000$-400,000$ for a streamed recital which is watched by no more than 4,000 people (PAY ATTENTION that the MET talks about views instead of tickets sale) it could have done something with their orchestra and chorus and US based singers.
        And don’t give me a lecture about not being able to play for 1,000 people. Do you actually know how many shows of Rigoletto have played at the MET with 900 people? Or Don Giovanni? Or Cosi’ Fan tutte.
        Give me a break.

    • NotToneDeaf says:

      Why is it insulting to be clear about the terms of the cancellation? If Lyric had said something like, “Please alert us to any other offers you have during period,” you’d be insulted by that, too. And are you really still not clear on the difference between what’s happening in the US vs. Europe? Very tiresome.

    • Maria says:

      And you still don’t get it? Difference of funding. Totally different in each country of Europe as well than in America. Plus Covid in America is one of the worst hit with deaths. Other people much better with words and who know the economics of it all will no doubt tell you why!

    • Alan Glick says:

      There are orchestras in the US that are doing everything possible to maintain their seasons. The Florida Orchestra is one of those that are working around the clock to find ways of providing for the community and musicians during this trying time. Smaller groups on stage and shorter concerts make it possible to do two or three shows a day maintaining audience spacing as opposed to the usual one concert per evening. Plus extra steps are being taken backstage to ensure safety for the musicians and staff. The musicians have agreed to a one-year pay cut to offset the expected loss in ticket revenues with management promising that if there is a turnaround in expected revenues the loss in pay may be restored.

  • Bill says:

    Darn that Peter Gelb, why he didn’t make contingency plans for a deadly pandemic and why can’t he print money in the Met basement? ….

    Oh, wait, different opera company.

  • Peter San Diego says:

    If the contract had a clause forbidding outside work, then the “you are now welcome…” is, in fact, a useful statement. There may be opportunities for chamber music gigs, paid Zoom appearances, etc., that might provide a bit of income.

    If the contract never forbade outside work, then the statement is superfluous, at best.

  • José Bergher says:

    I recommend “The Performing Arts – The Economic Dilemma,” by William Baumol and William Bowen, published in 1966. This book has been a most valuable reference for subsequent publications on the subject.

  • José Bergher says:

    This is the link for downloading Baumol and Bowen’s entire book: https://archivesofthecentury.org/myportfolio/performing-arts-the-economic-dilemma/

  • Papageno says:

    I’m sure as musicians of a major orchestra they can easily find lucrative private teaching jobs.

  • Bruce says:

    ‘You are now welcome to accept other work that emerges within our original contract period’.

    In other words: fuck off, and good luck.

  • RM says:

    Wow. How patronizing and tone-deaf can an organization get?
    Management of LOC gives the orchestra “permission”? After it’s already been officially announced they have no work from their “owners”?

    Translation: “Don’t let the door hit ya where the good lawd split ya!”

    Doesn’t surprise anyone considering management’s treatment of the musicians during last season’s work stoppage.