Civic Opera House in Chicago, home of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Shutterstock/elesi)
One of the leading opera companies in the United States has canceled two performances set for this week after its orchestra went on strike over cost-cutting proposals.
Musicians occupied a picket line outside Lyric Opera of Chicago's doors Wednesday, objecting to management plans to reduce the orchestra's size and total number of performances.
The strike began Tuesday after talks broke down between the two sides.
The company says its ticket sales and subscriptions are down in "a trend opera companies nationwide are experiencing".
Orchestra members contend however that the company is neglecting opera performances in favor of musical theater and other initiatives.
"All we're asking is to maintain what we have," Lyric violinist Kathleen Brauer told AFP.
"Anything less than that is not worthy of this world-class institution."
The 65-year-old company canceled performances of Puccini's La Boheme and Mozart's Idomeneo planned for this week.
Over the last 10 years, Lyric has reduced its annual number of opera performances from 86 to 56, "because that's the maximum number supported by audience demand," the company said in a statement.
It has asked musicians for a reduction in the number of weeks they are guaranteed pay and a five-person reduction in the orchestra's full-time roster.
"Lyric's current contract requires Lyric to pay musicians for 24 weeks of work when its season is only 22 weeks," the company said.
The company said it reached concessions with its chorus and technicians' unions in new contract agreements.
"Achieving fair and efficient union agreements is an important indicator of success for donors," the company said.