Behind the Scenes: Orchestra On Strike

The majority of LOSA members can be found performing onstage donning costumes, wigs and makeup. On or around October 31st,  everyone has the opportunity to dress up and pretend to be someone else for Halloween. This month at Lyric you saw LOSA members playing townspeople, prisoners, Cretans,  milk maids, street sweepers and starving artists.

Offstage there was drama as well with the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra going on strike from October 9th to 13th. How did this action affect LOSA members? When any union goes on strike, it creates a difficult environment for everyone who works at the company. LOSA members are also members of a union, American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA). As a group, we support and understand the actions taken by CFM, Chicago Federation of Musicians. We can empathize with their frustration. We share the feeling of pride in our work and artistry, and we all desire to share our gifts and talents and to be appreciated and supported by our audiences and our employer. The ‘heart and soul’ that go into our performances are incredibly powerful and fragile.

LOSA members were laid off for 5 days. Three performances were canceled,  2 of which have been rescheduled for January. Financially the strike was very difficult, especially for part time LOSA members, many missing 21 hours of pay for those 5 days.

AGMA is in the process of ratifying a 3 year agreement with Lyric Opera of Chicago full of concessions that are devastating to our members. Tickets to the Opera are not selling well, a situation that Lyric’s management has responded to by shortening the season, cutting performances and therefore cutting weeks of employment for LOSA members, which of course means a substantial cut in pay. This creates a stressful environment in the Opera house, giving us less time to prepare to perform, and outside the Opera house, forcing LOSA members to find extra work if they can on short breaks from the Lyric Opera schedule that last one to five weeks.

Our first day back to work after the strike was Monday, October 15th. Many LOSA members felt grateful, happy to be back to work, eager to produce this amazing art form with friends and colleagues. At the first performance of La Boheme after we returned, the overwhelming response from the audience as guest conductor, Maestro Domingo Hindoyan acknowledged the orchestra, was touching and appreciative, proving to us that there is a desire and yearning for grand opera in Chicago.