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No Music to Your Ears: Jean Braham of The Metropolitan Opera's Chorus Line Talks Pay Cuts and Salary Issues via The New York Times

By Ian Holubiak i.holubiak@classicalite.com on Apr 23, 2014 01:56 PM EDT

The life of a struggling artist doesn't warrant the enviable praise from critics, audiences and so on. Opera singers, jazz players, rock musicians, "Showtime" subway dancers and so on all put in the time to earn the buck.

In an age of economic strife, where the tables are downturned and musicians shook to let go of their proverbial artistic platform, certain areas like Portland and Austin offer benefits for artists--usually in the form of a health insurance card.

And yet, Jean Braham of the Metropolitan Opera broke down the façade of the machine, and what lay beneath actually puts an artist's stomach at ease (for now).

"We have benefits," said Ms. Braham to the New York Times, describing the union contract that has allowed her to live the dream, and in New York City, for the past decade and a half.

She continued, "We have a base pay that is secure. It's long hours and it can be grueling, physically grueling. But I used to work at a law firm. It sure beats that."

Alas, the mighty winds may have slowed to a cool breeze.

But according to the Times and the Met, labor costs are to be reduced and across the country symphonies, orchestras, ensembles, operas and everything in between are getting the big ugly axe, slashing budgets and salaries across the board.

And for Jean Braham and other members of the chorus line at the Met, their careers are in jeopardy, and a 16% pay cut may be imposed, to which their health care deductibles and pensions would suffer greatly.

The amount of physical labor the singers put into their line of work--and the amount of time and training that is required of them--does not warrant many other jobs on the side to supplement their slashed rate.

There's a lot that goes into the Met's melting pot of problems: set designs are costly, labor unions are renegotiating contracts and ticket sales taking a serious hit at the box office.

So for singers like Jean Braham, their voices can rest easy now, but the looming concern still hangs high and next month the Met will deliberate on the fate of their chorister's livelihood.

Check out the webcast of Netrebko doing I Puritani and see if you think they need a cut.

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TagsThe Metropolitan Opera, Jean Braham, The New York Times

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