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Steel’s New Deal

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Will the New York City Opera greet the first season under new general manager George Steel with a strike? The company wants to reopen contracts for both singers and production staff, good till May 2010, as a result of “extraordinary circumstances.” NYCO’s outside counsel, Kenneth Kirschner, wrote the union on March 30, citing a nonexistent 2008–9 season, the renovation of its theater, and the resignation of G.M.-designate Gerard Mortier. But the union isn’t budging. “City Opera cannot claim that the circumstances are extraordinary when they unilaterally created those circumstances,” responded union head Alan Gordon in a letter. “City Ballet managed to have a season notwithstanding the construction, and the fact that NYCO did not was, once again, the unilateral decision of [board chair Susan Baker]. She cannot now bootstrap her ineptitude into a way in which to reopen the contract.” (NYCO gave this comment: “We are confused and hurt by Mr. Gordon's public comments. As in the past, New York City Opera prefers to negotiate contractual agreements in confidence.”) The union is advising members to plan for a strike. Separately, NYCO’s orchestra contract expires May 31.

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