Thursday, January 19, 2012

 
The vote on repealing same-sex marriage in New Hampshire was supposed to have been taken back on January the 11th, but was postponed at the last minute until the 18th (last Wednesday).  Surprise, surprise the Republican House leadership put it off again on the morning of the 18th.  Political, cultural, and gay affairs blogger Joe Jervis posted this summary of the situation:

"Republican House leaders have delayed the vote on gay marriage, House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, said yesterday. "The legislation will not be considered for a floor vote until February," Bettencourt said in an email. "We must deal with some critical financial and economic-related legislation first, as well as legislative redistricting, prior to any discussion of gay marriage," he said. "It's critical to keep to keep legislative priorities in their proper order." Bettencourt said in late December the House would most likely vote on the issue Jan. 11 or today."

Joe chased this with his own speculation that the Republicans know they don't have sufficient support to repeal marriage equality here, which could mean that Republican Representatives are well aware the population of this state has declared its opposition to repeal loud and clear.  It is a very New Hampshire thing to listen to the voice of the people -- we'll see if this one works out that way.






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Apparently there are some, yes.  It was reported that a woman rose at a Rick Santorum gathering in South Carolina and launched into a fevered account of how the Obama administration has targeted the Tea Party for mass arrest and incarceration in camps fenced with razor wire.  I shouldn't be surprised by this sort of thing any more because the level of paranoia among the Republicans and their various followers has been extremely high, and because some of the Republicans themselves have advocated rounding up LGBT people and forcing them into camps of exactly the type this lady described.

What she described is not remotely possible, of course.  But things have gone on in this Republican Primary campaign that would have been inconceivable a decade ago.   As a former colleague used to say, "lunacy goes on." 


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From the New York Times comes word of an almost unprecedented labor negotiation in which, after bitterly adversarial confrontations, the musicians' unions agree to help in revitalizing the financially crippled New York City Opera. 

New York City Opera Ratifies Agreement 
By Daniel J. Wakin  January 19, 2012, 4:35 pm


New York City Opera's orchestra ratified a three-year contract on Thursday that provides for deep cuts but also a new labor-management committee to deal with fund-raising, planning and artistic matters. An agreement had been reached earlier this week ending a lockout and nearly a year of bitter negotiations. Tino Gagliardi, the president of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, which represents the orchestra players, said in a statement that they agreed to “deep concessions” in hopes of raising City Opera “from the ashes.” The financially pressed company has moved out of its home at Lincoln Center to present a sharply reduced season in several theaters around New York.
 
The contract that's been ratified will give the union a hand in areas in which NYCO's Board of Directors has demonstrated significant incompetence.  The company's current situation is chaotic; in the shortened season they're trying to mount, only about 10% of operating expenses can be covered by box office, an untenable position.  Some people have asked why bother to save the almost 70 year old company -- why not just let it die?

NYCO occupies a special place in New York's performing arts history.  Founded in 1943 by the city's dynamic Mayor Fiorello La Guardia specifically to be "the people's opera," NYCO's mission statement included charging popular prices for popular operas; but from the beginning, new and challenging pieces became part of the mix.

More significant socially, NYCO broke the color barrier in American opera production in 1945 when Todd Duncan (the original Porgy in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess) was engaged for leading dramatic baritone roles, followed the next year by the radiant soprano Camilla Williams -- both scored major successes with audience and critics.  After them the floodgates opened as the company fully integrated, capped in 1949 by the premiere of the first opera by an African-American, William Grant Still's Troubled Island, to be premiered by a major American opera company.

Early in the game, American operas were welcomed by NYCO's audience and the company even mounted a season consisting entirely of American operas, including several premieres, in the early 1950s.  There was critical acclaim; NYCO became the greatest advocate for American opera in the U.S., many of the works it produced becoming standards in the repertory.

The company's trajectory from those heady early days when it was on the cutting edge (if always somewhat in the shadow of the solidly established, highly prestigious Metropolitan Opera) to the disaster that has unfolded during the last two years of questionable artistic choices; the indefensible spending down of the endowment; and the engagement of a European General Manager who dumped the company before ever arriving the States but after he had used a lot of its money, was filled with truly distinguished achievements.  Through it all, NYCO remained "the people's opera," launching hundreds of careers by American singers, continuing to present new and classic American works while bringing new European, South American and some Asian works to New York, and holding the line on prices at the popular level.

NYCO is far from out of the woods.  It's broke.  It left its home theater in Lincoln Center which it could no longer afford, it has to rebuild its Board almost entirely, it must establish the endowment from scratch all over again.  But it has an agreement that will allow it to operate as a gypsy company in whatever venues it can afford, and it now has in the unions a collaborator, not an adversary.

However tenuous still, New York City Opera has a future.

Comments:
I am glad to hear about NYCO.
 
To have the Orchestra agree to a significantly lower annual pay to help NYCO survive, and to help in fund raising to boot, is huge. There sure are still problems to solve, but it would be wonderful to see this company survive in some form, and particularly to continue to present American operas as it has in the past. This seems to me to be a step in the right direction, and one I would never have thought would happen a week ago.
 
Indeed, Kathy -- the underlying significance is that the most hostile labor negotiations in the arts I can ever remember have somehow resulted in both sides working together to SAVE a company for a change. It would be very interesting to have an inside account how all this was made to happen\.
 
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