Metropolitan Opera Makes New Deal with Orchestra, Announces Free Performances

All three of the Met's biggest unions have now reached an agreement with the Met — paving a clearer path for a 2021-22 season

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The Metropolitan Opera and its orchestra signed a new collective bargaining agreement on August 24 and plans a return to the stage in September with two free pre-season performances.

The orchestra musicians' union, Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, was the last of the Met's three largest unions to reach an agreement with the Met. Those three unions represent the orchestra, chorus, and stagehands.

The new contract with orchestra musicians replaced an agreement that expired on July 31.

"We are thrilled to be returning to regular performances very soon, and look forward to reconnecting with our audiences at the Met, at Carnegie Hall, on tour, and at our newly established chamber music series at Weill Hall," AFM Local 802 president Adam Krauthamer and the Met Orchestra Committee wrote in a joint statement.

To commemorate the agreement, the Met announced two performances that are free and open to the public: Mahler's Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection," in Damrosch Park at 8 p.m. on September 4 and September 5.

The concerts will feature music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Met orchestra and chorus, and soloists Ying Fang and Denyce Graves. Approximately 2,500 seats will be available, and the performances are made possible by donations from Met board members Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer and Ann Ziff.

Nézet-Séguin described the concert program as "not just a moment of revival for us, but a gift of hope and rebirth to New York City" after a year and a half of struggle.

The new collective bargaining agreement creates a more feasible path to the Met's 2021-22 season, which is planned to open on September 27 with the premiere of Terrence Blanchard's opera "Fire Shut Up in My Bones" — the company's first work by a Black composer.

Although the orchestra did not disclose financial details of the agreement, it includes the creation of an annual chamber music series at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, according to a Met release.

The agreement follows months of protest and tense negotiations between the Met and many of the 15 unions that represent its employees. In May, the Met reached a four-year agreement with the American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents the organization's chorus and solo artists.

Notably, last month, the Met reached a tentative deal with Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the union that represents its stagehands — but not before a lockout that began on December 8 and the outsourcing of labor earlier this year. In response to the new deal with Local 802, representatives of Local One wrote in a statement that not all contracts with Met employees are yet finalized and that there is more work to be done.

The Met, which has been closed since March 2020 and has canceled nearly 300 performances, reported that it has lost over $150 million in revenue during the pandemic, and has previously said it was necessary for most employees to take pay cuts.

“The members of the Met’s great orchestra have been through Herculean challenges during the sixteen months of the shutdown, as we struggled to keep the company intact,”  Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, wrote in a release. “Now, we look forward to rebuilding and returning to action.”