AGMA Condemns City Opera Relocation Plan

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The American Guild of Musical Artists has blasted New York City Opera's plan to vacate its Lincoln Center home. AGMA, the union representing the company's singers and production personnel, claimed that management has eliminated all employment guarantees for performers and has not informed the union whether health and pension benefits will continue.

City Opera announced last week that, faced with a $5 million budget shortfall, it plans to leave its longtime home, the David H. Koch Theater, and produce a scaled-back season. The company has not announced what its budget will be, where performances will take place, or what pieces will be performed. In a written statement, AGMA executive director Alan Gordon criticized City Opera general manager and artistic director George Steel and chairman Charles R. Wall.

"We can't let an artistic director who's been there for two years and a board chairman who's been there for two minutes destroy a venerable cultural institution that's been a mainstay of American and beautiful operatic music to New Yorkers for decades," Gordon said. "Our members have given their professional lives and careers to make City Opera great since it first began. They don't earn very much money, and they've already made great sacrifices to try to help save City Opera, but Steel and his board want to cast them out, replace them with Juilliard dropouts and singers from subway stations."

Gordon added that the union has instructed its lawyers to file unfair labor practice charges against City Opera and to explore pursuing an injunction to prevent the scaled-back company from using the City Opera name. He also said that his members intend to picket in front of Steel's and Wall's homes.

AGMA and City Opera have been locked in a contentious dispute over negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement. In May, the union threatened to strike against the final two performances of the company's most recent season but later withdrew that threat.