Deadline for agreement at 'Traviata' opening

The contract negotiations between Lyric Opera of Chicago and the American Guild of Musical Artists reached a crescendo on Tuesday, when the Lyric’s union members voted 88-5 to authorize a strike if an agreement can’t be reached by the opening of “La Traviata” on Saturday night.

The last union contract expired May 1. Stickiest negotiation issues involve the Lyric’s desire to have performers contribute 8.5% of health insurance costs, and to increase the number of weeks a singer must work prior to being eligible for insurance from 16 to 20. Union is also miffed at Lyric’s proposed lifting of the requirement to have understudies for principal roles.

“The Lyric is a good company,” Alan Gordon, Executive Director of AGMA, told Variety, “I don’t know why they’re taking this position demanding cutbacks that would hurt its artists.” Gordon also noted that members of the orchestra are not required to contribute to their health insurance.

AGMA, which hasn’t struck since an action against the Metropolitan Opera in 1980, represents singers, dancers, and production personnel at the Lyric. A strike would shut down the opening performance of the season.

Asked for comment, Bill Mason, Lyric’s General Director, issued a statement Wednesday saying, “The Lyric is confident an agreement can be reached before opening night.”

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