amBroadway: Union battle hangs over the Met, Broadway stars coming to ‘Muppets’ and more

Photo courtesy of the Met

Union battle looms over the Met

Even assuming that the Metropolitan Opera is able to reopen its 3,800-seat theater as scheduled in September, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the union representing approximately 800 of its behind-the-scenes workers (including stagehands, designers, technicians and ticket sellers), is sending out an ominous warning to the general public that “there will be no opera in 2021” unless the union and Met management can agree upon the terms of a new contract. 

In a statement, IATSE accused the Met of trying to use the current health crisis as an opportunity to cut the wages of its members. In addition to taking out advertisements, the union is reaching out to lawmakers and encouraging donors to withhold financial support until the situation is resolved. 

According to NPR, the Met has offered to make weekly “bridge” payments to IATSE workers until the opera house reopens in exchange for significant future pay cuts. The Met locked out IATSE members in December after the two sides were unable to come to an agreement. 

The Met has also expressed an interest in entering into contract negotiations with the unions representing its singers and musicians, even though their contracts do not expire until next year. The contract between the Met and IATSE expired last summer. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Met has stayed on the cultural radar by screening selections from its massive catalogue of filmed performances for free every single night. It has also presented virtual vocal recitals with opera stars, which have garnered criticism for being filmed outside the U.S. and using nonunion musicians. In an attempt to address racial inequality at the company, the Met recently appointed Marcia Sells as its first Chief Diversity Officer.  

As of right now, the upcoming Met season is slated to include Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” (the Met’s first opera by an African American composer), Matthew Aucoin’s “Eurydice,” Brett Dean’s “Hamlet,” and new productions of “Rigoletto,” “Lucia di Lammermoor” and “Don Carlos,” plus 16 revivals. 

‘Muppet Show’ features Broadway stars

Last week, theater fans were watching the 1997 television remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” with Brandy, which had just been made available on Disney+. Now, they are binging on all five seasons of “The Muppet Show,” which became available on Disney+ last Friday. During its run from 1976 to 1981, “The Muppet Show” showcased countless Broadway stars in showstopping turns as hosts, including Joel Grey, Sandy Duncan, Lena Horne, Ben Vereen, Ethel Merman, Madeline Kahn, Bernadette Peters, Julie Andrews, Zero Mostel, Pearl Bailey, Danny Kaye, Leslie Uggams, Linda Lavin, Liza Minnelli and Carol Channing. 

This week’s streaming recommendations…

”Frederick Douglass: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” (historical solo drama written and performed by Tony winner André De Shields), Fri. at 7 p.m., flushingtownhall.org…“Bad Dates” (Theresa Rebeck comedy starring Andréa Burns), through March 14, georgestreetplayhouse.org…”Some Enchanted Evening” (Rodgers & Hammerstein revue filmed on the Paper Mill Playhouse stage), through Sat., papermill.org.

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