|The night the lights go out in Lincoln Center...|
July 31 marks the end of the current contracts (across the board) between the Metropolitan Opera and its myriad employees, from musicians, to costumers, set designers, make-up, and so many more. In the Adaptistration blog, Drew McManus' headline is "Today is the Last Day of the Met as You Know It." There are serious consequences for an employer initiated lockout beyond the short term:
"The New York Times published an article on 7/29/2014 by Michael Cooper that takes a step back to add some perspective to the rhetoric and recounts how difficult it was for the Met’s ticket sales to bounce back from their last work stoppage in 1980. When taking into consideration the Met’s current earned income shortfalls, a work stoppage without at least some effort to play and talk carries greater potential to exacerbate what the Met has defined as a crucial problem."
Simply remembering the impact that work stoppages in major sports (I'm thinking baseball and hockey in particular) had on future ticket sales--it took years for fans to start returning to the ballparks--does not bode well for the Met, which is already in a precarious position, because, as Greg Sandow notes (in his third installment of the "Peter Gelb Furor"):
So no wonder Peter urgently feels he has to do something. Of course that means more than confronting the unions. The Met has to become hot again, as it briefly was when Peter first came there. It has to be buzzing with excitement that even people who don’t normally go to the opera pick up on.
But even then — and even if the productions were terrific — the confrontation would have to happen, as it’s happened elsewhere, because the cost structure isn’t sustainable. It would just be easier — much easier — if the productions were good.
To reuse some words from my last post: Wouldn’t Peter’s negotiating position be much stronger if his new productions had been triumphs, and a whole new audience — as was his original plan — came flocking to see them?"
So the Met is locked into a position with rising labor costs due to new productions, and simply cost-of-living increases. And the public is rejecting the new productions. Even the highly touted HD broadcasts are not generating the intended income, although I think that this was a tremendous idea to bring the Met stage to those of us far from NYC who cannot afford the trip and the high costs of tickets. The added bonus is, of course, that I can sit in an extremely comfortable seat with a tub of popcorn, one of my favorite pastimes.
Federal mediators have been called in, but time is beyond short. Management hasn't proposed a "talk and play" position, something which has worked well in a variety of other cultural organizations. Even the Philadelphia Orchestra didn't stop playing as it traversed its journey through Chapter 11.
Will a lockout at the Met directly impact those of us in the Heartland? Eventually, yes, as we won't be able to tune into radio broadcasts in the fall (of course, those can be supplanted by other companies). It is unfortunate that this vaunted institution thinks of itself as too big to fail. One can only hope for a miracle.