The ramifications of Tuesday’s Renee Fleming concert continue. The local musicians union called a strike against Fresno Grand Opera hours before the concert began, citing unfair hiring practices and a year-plus effort to reach a new contract with the company. Fleming went on to perform anyway, essentially performing a recital with piano and filling part of her truncated hour-long program with a “talk-show”-style interaction with the audience.
Several audience members I talked to loved the impromptu nature of the event, citing Fleming’s dedication and spontaneity. Others were saddened by the abbreviated nature of the program and the missed opportunity to hear the opera superstar perform with a full orchestra.
Today I reached Larry Gardner, president of Local 12 of the American Federation of Musicians, and asked him for an update. He told me the local remains on strike against Fresno Grand Opera. (He also emphasized that this coming weekend’s pops concert with the Fresno Philharmonic is in no way impacted by Tuesday’s labor action; the Philharmonic is covered by a separate contract.)
Gardner said the Fresno Grand Opera has been placed on the American Federation of Musicians “International Unfair List.” That means union musicians who accept work from the company could be subject to fines and penalties.
A phone call and email to Ronald D. Eichman, general director of the Fresno Grand Opera, were not returned today. When I talked to Eichman Tuesday night, he expressed disappointment that musicians walked away from the negotiating table. “We have a group of people who are choosing not to play, and we’re going to continue to operate as we always do,” he said.
I’ll be continuing to follow this story. Fresno Grand Opera’s “Show Boat” is scheduled to open May 11.