Musician strike averted Orchestra, players make last-minute deal in Philadelphia

A COMMENTARY SOUNDS

September 22, 1990|By Scott Duncan | Scott Duncan,Evening Sun Staff

One week after the Philadelphia Orchestra announced that Wolfgang Sawallisch would become its new music director, the orchestra narrowly avoided a strike by its musicians by signing a new contract just hours before the opening concert of the season.

The players were technically on strike for a short time after they voted to reject a proposal Monday after their previous contract expired midnight Sunday. But after last-ditch negotiations Monday night, the opening of the orchestra's 90th anniversary season was salvaged.

"I am pleased that we have been able to reach an agreement with the musicians, which maintains their position as one of the most highly compensated orchestras in the country. . .," said Joseph H. Kluger, the Philadelphia Orchestra's executive director.

By the end of the contract, the players will earn $1,240 per week, a 15 percent increase over the three-year term. The Boston Symphony players signed a three-year contract last year that calls for $1,200 a week by the end of the final year.

The Philadelphia players were represented by the same labolawyer who represented the BSO during their 22-week strike in 1988-89, Leonard Leibowitz.

In other labor news, the San Francisco Opera musicians came to terms on a new three-year deal last week, also for about a 15 percent increase over the contract's term. The opera had to cancel its opening night and three other performances.

In one unusual feature of the new contract, 20 of the opera orchestra's string players can take one opera off per season.

Meanwhile, the opera management had to contend with another bizarre problem. The costumes for the opera's new production of Strauss's "Capriccio," worth $100,000 and designed by Gianni Versace of Milan, were flown by mistake to Tokyo where some got drenched in a rainstorm, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

This week, half of the costumes were in London, trying to clear customs. In Trish Donnally's story in the Chronicle, this hectic exchange at the opera offices was noted:

"'Capriccio's' now in Tokyo," said office manager Michael Schoenig.

"Tokyo! Tokyo! Tokyo! No, they can't be in Tokyo," said Jenny Green, director of the costume shop.

Quote from critic John von Rhein's profile of superstar Jessye Norman in the Chicago Tribune last week:

"As for my voice, it cannot be categorized. I think I am a little of anything that can possibly be concerned with the female singing voice."

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