For the first time in the Minnesota Orchestra’s 110-year history, an entire season will pass with no music. The orchestra’s management on Wednesday canceled the remaining two weeks of the 2012-13 season because of the ongoing labor dispute with musicians.
Given the absence of any movement in contract talks, the cancellation was widely anticipated. Still, it is extremely rare for a symphony orchestra to lose an entire year. It happened in Oklahoma in 1988 (where the Oklahoma Symphony was disbanded and the Oklahoma Philharmonic took its place) and in Louisville in 2011-12.
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is performing again Thursday in Apple Valley after a contract agreement ended a six-month lockout, allowing the ensemble to salvage the last few weeks of the season.
At the same time as it announced the cancellations, the Minnesota Orchestra proposed a three-weekend summer season, including Osmo Vänskä’s conducting music of Sibelius and Dvorák — a program that had been scheduled to conclude the classical season in late May. The summer dates would be canceled if there is no contract settlement.
Also canceled Wednesday was an Inside the Classics program scheduled for July 25, which would have been the first program in the renovated Orchestra Hall.
The proposed summer schedule of six concerts would run from July 20 to Aug. 2 and would be held at Ted Mann Concert Hall at the University of Minnesota. Orchestra spokeswoman Gwen Pappas said Ted Mann was chosen because “it worked well last year for Sommerfest.” She denied speculation that the Orchestra Hall project was behind schedule.
“The decision to use Ted Mann has absolutely nothing to do with the hall,” Pappas said. “Our plan is to gear up to open the fall season in the new hall, provided there’s a settlement.”
The board also proposed three dates — May 20, 21 and 22 — for negotiations with the musicians, under the wing of a federal mediator. Talks were held in federal mediation in the fall before the breakdown. Since then, there has been one short meeting on Jan. 2. Musicians said in a statement that they would respond to the invitation in the next couple of days.
The musicians also announced Wednesday that they would present two free concerts, at 2 and 4 p.m. on May 19 at Temple Israel in Minneapolis.
Contract talks began on April 12, 2012. Musicians were locked out on Oct. 1 when they rejected management’s proposal to cut base salaries by 32 percent. The musicians have not made a counterproposal and have said they will not negotiate until management ends the lockout.
The dispute has become quite bitter. In a full-page ad in Sunday’s Star Tribune, the musicians urged the public to contact board members and suggested it was time to replace Jon Campbell, the board chair, and Richard Davis, who heads the negotiating committee. The union cited the potential departure of key players, including concertmaster Erin Keefe, and also a letter to the board from Vänskä saying that he would resign if a settlement is not reached by Sept. 9.
“Last week, Osmo confirmed what musicians have been warning for months,” said Tim Zavadil, the musicians’ negotiating chair, in a statement. “The world-class status of the Minnesota Orchestra is in serious jeopardy.”
Musicians also are supporting petitions that would ask board members to step aside “if they are not willing to do what it takes to maintain” the orchestra.
In a statement, the board pointed out that SPCO players negotiated a concessionary deal while being locked out, suggesting that “if SPCO musicians can do it, why can’t Minnesota Orchestra musicians?”