802 Protests Brooklyn Opera Company

802 in the Press

Volume CV, No. 1January, 2005

The following article was posted by the Associated Press on Dec. 15, 2004.

A Manhattan concert hall stopped the Opera Company of Brooklyn from holding a planned event there Tuesday evening after a musicians’ union scheduled a protest against the company’s use of a so-called virtual orchestra machine.

The event, which the opera company said was a fund-raiser and celebration of its new board of trustees, was to be moved to another venue, said Jay D. Meetze, the company’s founder and artistic director. Meetze didn’t disclose the new location.

The fund-raiser was to include a demonstration of the Sinfonia, a computerized audio system that is banned from Broadway theaters.

The union objects to the device, which union president David Lennon said was designed with the “sole purpose of eliminating live music and live musicians and replacing them with a machine’’ to increase profits.

Meetze said the Sinfonia allows the Opera Company of Brooklyn to provide affordable, accessible opera.

“The whole mission of the Opera Company of Brooklyn is to work to bring opera to the masses, and using technology is a way to accomplish this goal,” Meetze said by telephone.

Lennon said the opera company agreed with the union in February not to use the device without the union’s consent. Meetze said that agreement was invalid because one board member had signed it under duress.

Local 802 of the American Musicians’ Union had scheduled a Tuesday night rally outside CAMI, the concert hall where the fund-raiser was to take place. The protest was canceled after CAMI decided not to host the event, Lennon said.

“We applaud CAMI hall for their commitment to live music, and we’re very pleased that tonight’s performance was prevented,’’ Lennon said.

A message left for the chairman of CAMI’s board was not immediately returned.

Last year, musicians staged a four-day walkout in a dispute over the virtual orchestra machines, shutting down all but one Broadway musical. The strike cost the city $10 million in box office receipts and revenue.