Warning: rant ahead!
After last month's announcement that our own Michigan Opera Theater had to cancel productions, we now have the announcement regarding the Baltimore Opera:
I have been associated with both of these companies, and have a great amount of respect for both Dr. D and Michael Harrison.
Personally, I am not a huge supporter of the unions, and I feel that the highly inflated salaries of both unions and the excessive spending in the non-union areas contribute to this issue.
As a former designer, I used to be appalled at my colleagues who would spend thousands upon tens of thousands on fancy fabrics, real antiques and other items to decorate singers and stage.
When I was in Chicago, I was a union stagehand for a few months. It just seemed ODD to be paid to not work. It seemed odd to have our lunches and dinners catered in. It went against everything I had experienced to date, and I never liked it.
Another instance was the production where an audio engineer had a paid assistant, IMHO, far too much like "I'm getting my girlfriend a paid gig" than an actual assistant, especially since she just sat around doing nothing while I as producer had to pay her a salary. I am perfectly happy to pay a salary if someone actually works, and these companies should really start looking at their structure.
I am not suggesting layoffs - not at all. I spent 16 years in this industry, and am far too familiar with the "its not my job" attitude of union employees. The industry should revert back to model where everyone does what is needed to bring a production together - none of this "we have to wait until this person shows up so we can move this stack of cable, wood, boxes to that point over there."
Pick up the f-ing box and move it, ok?
I always enjoyed my work, and I made a comfortable living while NON-union. I have never been able to reconcile myself to the excessive spending, and the fact that I was once sacked from a design job for NOT spending enough.
That company probably wishes they had someone like me around now, and no it wasn't either of the 2 listed above.
Personally I think opera companies need to re-think their approach to spending, and keep in mind that what they essentially do is create a "simulation", not a reality...
I doubt highly that someone is going to storm out after buying their ticket and complain that the costume fabric should have cost another $100/yard.
And how about giving Americans jobs? Yes, I *know* that opera is an international industry, but the truth is that American companies, once they get to a certain threshold, are perfectly happy to start hiring singers/designers/conductors from outside of the US.
Sure, the reverse is true, but we all know that the balance tips far too much to one side. Offering a few comprimario roles to Americans doesn't cut it.
And the argument that the audience deserves big box office stars? Sure they do, and that is why we have the Met.
Because I love this industry more than anything else, it saddens me greatly to know that these types of cutbacks are happening.
Thoughts, comments, brickbats?