COVID-19 Relief for US Opera Soloists and Soloist Representation in Negotiations

US Opera Companies

The social distancing measures essential to combating the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in widespread cancellations of cultural events and the shuttering of many opera companies for the remainder of the season. The impact on opera soloists is particularly acute as many soloists did not receive rehearsal pay for cancelled productions and are struggling to claim unemployment during this mandated shutdown.

With that in mind, the AGMA Soloist Coalition has written an open letter to U.S. opera companies, urging them to support opera soloists during their recovery efforts and notifying them that soloists intend to participate at the table during the next round of union negotiations. Please join us in urging companies to both assist soloists in short-term relief efforts and work with us in good faith to ensure a better safety net going forward.

To: US Opera Companies
From: [Your Name]

We, the undersigned, as members of the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), applaud the opera companies that have stepped up to help artists on the brink of extraordinary financial crisis due to COVID-19. These companies, of all budget levels — AGMA signatories and otherwise — are proving that supporting the most vulnerable in our industry during a global crisis is possible. We are grateful for their efforts, and we will remember their support for us.

We soloists are among those who have been heavily impacted by the coronavirus crisis. Because soloists are typically regarded by our employers as “independent contractors”, most of us cannot qualify for traditional unemployment; we depend upon our contracted engagements to make ends meet.

While a number of US opera companies are cognizant of the financial peril we are facing and are supporting the solo artists in their communities during this time of crisis, there remain companies who have not yet committed to assisting their solo artists. We respect these companies for supporting the greater good of the country by helping “flatten the curve,” but today we ask these companies to also support the greater good of their own village by helping stabilize the solo artists therein. We are all in this together, and the future of our industry depends greatly upon the survival of the artists who bring this art form to life.

We are committed to creating a greater soloist presence at the negotiating table and exercising our collective power alongside our fellow union members. We are vital members of our industry and our union, and we come together in this unprecedented moment to ensure that we, and all artists that follow us, will never again be left without a safety net.