Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra on strike

By Michael San Gabino |

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Lyric Opera House (Photo: vxla, CC BY 2.0)

On October 9, 2018, the musicians of the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra announced that they were on strike.

The orchestra, which is represented by the Chicago Federation of Musicians (CFM), said on its website and social media accounts, “Over the past 65 years, Chicago’s citizens, civic leaders, and philanthropists built a world-class opera company for a world-class city. The Lyric Opera Orchestra has been a key part of that, renowned for its artistry and exquisite sound. But Anthony Freud [Lyric General Director, President & CEO] and Lyric Management are demanding radical cuts that would decimate the Orchestra and forever diminish the Lyric Opera of Chicago.”

In a statement about the strike, Lyric said, “We apologize for the inconvenience and losses this disruption creates for our patrons, donors, partners and other dedicated employees, and are doing everything possible to protect as much of our season. That said, Lyric simply cannot agree to the terms CFM demands, given our financial circumstances. Our proposed changes are necessary to ensure Lyric’s survival as a world-class opera company providing a diverse range of cultural entertainment to communities throughout Chicago…Lyric urges CFM to continue to talk and perform.”

The strike comes a day after Lyric announced it had reached multi-year labor deals with the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) and International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). Negotiations started in the spring.

AGMA is a labor organization that represents America’s operatic, choral, and dance artists. Lyric’s agreement with AGMA extends through the 2020/21 season and is subject to the approval of AGMA members and the AGMA Board of Governors. Further details regarding the agreement have not been released to the public.

IATSE is a labor organization that represents technicians and artisans in all aspects of the entertainment industry. Agreements were unanimously ratified by the members of Stagehands Local 2, Wardrobe Local 769, Hair and Make-Up Local 476, and Treasurers and Ticket Sellers Local 750.

The Lyric Opera Orchestra musicians’ website and social media pages also mentioned proposed cuts including “eliminating all of Lyric’s popular radio broadcasts.” The Lyric Opera Radio Broadcasts featured the opening night performances of all of Lyric’s operas on WFMT and were then syndicated internationally by the WFMT Radio Network. Lyric was unable to secure funding for the 2018-19 broadcast season.