Letter from Ryan Taylor
I hope you are having a good start to the New Year. As we get into the full swing of 2023, I want to share an update on Minnesota Opera in this period of active recovery as we set a course to continue to be an important artistic and cultural asset for Minnesotans. I also want to provide some broader context to our ongoing negotiations to continue our collective bargaining agreement with the MN Opera Orchestra.
Most of us are aware of the profound impact that the pandemic had on not just MN Opera, but other similar arts organizations and venues, and the adjustments we needed to make to continue to bring opera to the community. As we continue to discover and come to grips with the role that COVID-19 and the experience of the pandemic will continue to play—related to the arts and our daily lives—it’s natural for us to want to bring things back to the way they were before.
But, as we all have experienced, that desire to return to familiar patterns conflicts with the fact that the world itself has changed, and we must change with it. Arts institutions that do not recognize and respond to these changes do so at their peril, and risk rendering their mission and the valued work of their artists obsolete.
We met the challenges of COVID-19 head on, and by doing that, we also created opportunities to move MN Opera forward. Our future will be grounded in our track record of delivering outstanding performances at the Ordway and invest in creative exploration through innovative productions in both familiar and new spaces that bring the joy and beauty of opera to a broader audience.
We continue to work toward becoming a more dynamic, sustainable, and inclusive opera company that benefits patrons, artists, and the community well into the future. We will, of course, continue to stage productions at the Ordway. We will also explore alternative venues— like the Luminary Arts Center, which we opened in September—and opportunities to expand the potential repertoire we offer and appeal to the increased geographic and demographic range of new fans. This doesn’t just benefit our audience—it benefits our artists and the opera field at large. As we lean into the deep reserves of creativity that exist within our artistic workforce, we will broaden our audience, welcome new friends and neighbors into spaces that provide a greater sense of belonging, deepen the value of our musical storytelling to the Twin Cities, and build greater financial sustainability as we surprise and delight all those in our orbit.
Our mission is our North star: to change lives by bringing together artists, audiences, and community and advancing the art of opera for today and for future generations. We will continue to consider the interests of all of our artists—singers, instrumentalists, crew, designers, directors, conductors and others—who contribute to this highly collaborative arts experience. This includes the musicians that make up our orchestra. At the core of the current orchestra contract negotiations is our need to marry respectful, agile stewardship of our resources with our vision to sing every story. Our goal is to maintain a vibrant season of live performances, which requires flexibility in staffing each of our productions, and to creatively consider what future productions will look like and where they will be held. These issues are important to the entire opera field, and we see the opportunity in them to create a MN Opera that embraces these changes and helps define our future model.
Since October 12, MN Opera offered 14 opportunities to the union to meet for bargaining. Unfortunately, each of these options was unilaterally rejected by the union without proposed alternative dates, which slowed progress toward the goal of resolution. Two dates were agreed upon for early January, however due to mediator illness, those dates were moved to February. In the interim, our Board officers met with the union’s negotiating committee to ensure that we fully understood their concerns and the challenges that face us all. Since then, and prior to the agreed upon mediated negotiation dates, the union authorized a strike.
Minnesota Opera intends to honor the mutually agreed upon negotiation sessions next week with the assistance of the federal mediator. We have sincere hope that this experienced, neutral third party will help the parties craft a route to resolution. We have been, and will continue to be, reasonable, transparent, and respectful as we strive for an agreement that positions all parties—MN Opera, its artists, and the community—for long-term success. We will provide updates regarding the status of negotiations, as appropriate.
Thank you for your continued support of MN Opera, its artists, and the arts community, and best wishes for a happy, enriching and rewarding 2023.
President and General Director