Solidarity With New York City Opera Musicians!
The Occupy Chicago Rebel Arts Collective, an organization of artists and cultural workers standing for social justice, roundly condemns the lock-out by the management of the New York City Opera. We also stand in full solidarity with the company’s performers and musicians and the American Federation of Musicians local 802. Without these artists and their union, their would be no NYCO.
Music might be a labor of love, but it is still labor on the part of those who create it. The musicians and performers at NYCO have roofs to put over their heads and families to feed just like anyone. Management, led by artistic director George Steel, seems to believe that this should be possible on a mere $4,000 a year and no health care.
This amounts to a ninety percent pay-cut! Meanwhile, Steel, whose directorial decisions have lead to a disastrous decline in both attendance and subscriptions, maintains a generous yearly salary of $400,000. Amanda Edge, a ballet dancer who has worked with NYCO, hit the nail on the head when she called Steel “a true example of the 1% in America.”
Though Steel and the rest seem to believe culture to be a privilege, NYCO was founded on the principle that it is a right for all to enjoy. Founded by then-mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1943, it was nicknamed “the people’s opera,” and has in the seven decades since brought the people of New York such legends as Placido Domingo, Beverly Sills, and Jose Carreras. It’s produced works from Bernstein, Gilbert & Sullivan, Sondheim, Puccini, Gershwin and countless others with the intent of making these legends accessible to the people of New York.
Steel and the rest of NYCO’s management appear content with ruining this brilliant legacy. As Edge writes, what they have done is “unconscionable; the pompous, selfish, elitist group has blithely defaced the people’s opera. The artists of the company, who were offered 80% below the 2011 national poverty level of $22,350, are the casualties of war. It appears that New York has lost New York City Opera, once a vibrant jewel in the artistic crown of this great city.”
The artists of NYCO deserve better, as do New York’s 99%. We extend our full support and solidarity to them, and urge readers to do the same.