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Metropolitan Opera reaches tentative agreement with biggest unions

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Metropolitan Opera reaches tentative agreement with biggest unions

Federal mediators announced Monday that the Metropolitan Opera has reached a tentative agreement with two of its biggest unions, suggesting that a lockout will likely be avoided.

The announcement comes about a month before the New York company is set to begin its new season at Lincoln Center.

Opera officials have been engaged in tense negotiations with several of its unions for weeks. The agreements have yet to be formally ratified on both sides.

Mediators have helped to broker negotiations between the Met and its unions. "These were difficult and highly complex negotiations, and I wish to commend the parties for their resolve in addressing multiple and complex issues," said Allison Beck, deputy director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, in a release on Monday.

The tentative agreement applies to the unions representing the Met's orchestral musicians and its stage artists, including singers. The Met also said on Monday that the contract deadline has been extended to Tuesday to allow negotiations to continue with other unions that have yet to secure a deal.

One of those unions is the Local 1 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents the opera's stagehands, carpenters and others.

The Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians confirmed on Monday that it has reached a tentative agreement with opera management. The union, which represents the Met's orchestra musicians, has been particularly aggressive in recent weeks with criticism of the company's management, especially Met general manager Peter Gelb.

The union has criticized Gelb for what it sees as overspending on lavish productions that have done little to enhance the company's reputation or box-office revenue. In turn, Gelb has argued that the opera needs to bring expenses under control, including cuts in compensation.

Like many opera companies in the U.S., the Met has been struggling with graying audiences, soft donations and dwindling public interest in the art form. Gelb has sought to reverse the trends by launching the Met in HD series, which brings opera to movie theaters, and spearheading splashy new productions featuring prominent directors from Broadway and other fields.   

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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