With less than three weeks before the Sept. 7 opening of its 1990 season, the San Francisco Opera has canceled all orchestra rehearsals until a contract settlement is reached with the musicians.
The opera sent all 69 orchestra musicians letters telling them not to show up at today's scheduled first day of rehearsals.
The orchestra's three-year contract expired Sunday at midnight. Earlier in the day, the musicians unanimously rejected their employer's latest offer. Talks broke down early Monday after orchestra negotiators made a counteroffer during a late-night session.
"By canceling the rehearsals, the Opera is putting the upcoming season in jeopardy," said clarinetist Joanne Eisler, chairman of the Opera orchestra's negotiating committee.
She said the musicians are confused by the Opera's move because, "We weren't at an impasse. We were making some movement, and we didn't feel the two sides were that far apart."
The main issue is money. Opera musicians now make a base salary of $40,000 a year for the 23-week season. They want partial parity with the San Francisco Symphony, whose musicians make a base salary of $57,000 for 42 weeks of work.
In 1987, the Opera orchestra played all its preseason rehearsals without a contract, approving the final offer just 10 minutes before the dress rehearsal of "The Barber of Seville," the night before the season opener.
This time, no rehearsals will be scheduled until a new contract is settled, said Opera spokesman Jon Finck.