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Brooklyn Opera Accuses Union of Coercion

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Brooklyn Opera Accuses Union of Coercion

By Roger Armbrust


April 22, 2004

NEW YORK ? The tug of war between the musicians? union and the Sinfonia, or ?virtual orchestra,? intensified Tuesday when the four-year-old Opera Company of Brooklyn declared null and void its earlier pact with Local 802 not to use a virtual orchestra. The agreement was signed in February, after OCB had planned to use one instead of live musicians for its production of "Le Nozze di Figaro.?

"Due to coercive tactics by the union,? reads the OCB statement, ?a board member from OCB signed the Feb. 6 document on the spot without board approval. OCB renounces the document and likewise any dictation by the 802 union as to what instruments OCB is allowed to employ in performance. The union had hoped this document would force a cash-strapped company into collective bargaining and more importantly limit its artistic director in choosing which instruments to use or not use."

Founder and principal conductor Jay Meetze added: "I have never before had another artist attempt to legally dictate what instrument I could or couldn't use. The union has gone too far by trying to take away my choices for artistic expression. The 802 is single-handedly limiting artistic freedom in New York."

"We stand firm in our position that this machine is not a musical instrument,? retorted the union in a statement, ?and was created and designed to replace live musicians. Our agreement with OCB is perfectly legal; in fact we have filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] against OCB and its illegal, unilateral denunciation of the collective bargaining agreement with Local 802."


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