The show will go on at Lyric Opera; striking musicians approve final deal

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Members of the Chicago Federation of Musicians went on strike outside the Lyric Opera Tuesday. | Adam Thorp / Sun-Times.

A five-day strike ended Saturday evening when the Lyric Opera reached a deal with its musicians that should keep the music playing through the 2020-21 season.

The musicians ratified the agreement Sunday. In a statement, they said they are “forever grateful for the overwhelming support we received from Lyric’s patrons and donors from the moment the strike began. That outpouring of support gives us great hope for the future of Lyric Opera.”

The final deal cuts the main opera season from 24 weeks to 22 and reduces the number of musicians, according to the statement. However, the musicians said they were able to secure other favorable terms.

Those include a 5.6 percent pay increase over a three-year contract; an additional five weeks in the 2019-2020 season; a delay in the reduction of the orchestra size until the 2019-2020 season; guaranteed employment for 37 orchestra members for the spring musical along with a 6.6 percent salary increase for musicals, and eight paid weeks of family leave.

Also, only four musicians will be cut from the orchestra, not five, according to the statement.

Seventy-four members of the Chicago Federation of Musicians Local (CFM) went on strike last week after one performance of the season-opening run of “La bohème.” They rejected what had been called the opera’s “last, best, and final offer.”

The musicians stepped away from their instruments and onto the picket line Tuesday, objecting to programming cuts that they felt diminished the quality of the opera and their own well-being.

CFM members were also concerned with plans to reduce the size of the orchestra by five members — from 74 members to 69 — and cut the length of the season from 24 to 22 weeks. The reduced number of paid performances would amount to an 8 percent pay cut for members despite nominal increases in wages, union representatives said.

On Sunday morning, a Lyric spokeswoman said the Sunday performance of “La bohème” would remain canceled.

The next performance will take place Wednesday, Oct. 17.

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