The New York City Opera today canceled this evening's opening performance of the summer-fall season and suspended operations after contract talks between the orchestra and the management broke down.
A statement from the company--after four hours of bargaining today failed to resolve differences on wages--said, "Performances are canceled until further notice."
Tonight's season was to have opened at Lincoln Center with Puccini's "Turandot." But instead, about 30 musicians--some carrying their instruments and dressed in performance tuxedoes--picketed the center. Police at first ordered the musicians off the center's property, but relented and the picketing continued for about an hour.
The orchestra's negotiating committee contended the impasse was caused by City Opera's unilateral decision to cut orchestra members' income by 39 percent as a result of the company's reduction in the number of weeks it rehearses and performs.
In the 1981-82 season, the company paid its musicians for 31 weeks, including a supplementary unemployment benefit week. For this season the opera company, coping with financial troubles, lost engagements and a reduction in the number of rehearsal and playing dates in Manhattan, has offered the musicians only 20 weeks of work. The musicians are seeking payment for 25 weeks.
The opera company today offered the orchestra a 6.5 percent wage increase for each of the next three years, but negotiations were deadlocked over the issue of work weeks. No new negotiations were scheduled.
City Opera's chief negotiator, Martin J. Oppenheimer, said today that arbitration could be the solution to the impasse, adding, "We would certainly consider it favorably."
But the musicians' attorney, Leonard Leibowitz, responded, "There's no likelihood of that."