Best line of the century

The situation in Louisville continues to make for colorful reporting. Today’s development was that the Music Director of the Kentucky Opera, Joe Mechavich, is bowing out of this week’s production of Merry Widow because the company hired replacement musicians instead of the musicians of the Louisville Orchestra:

…“Given these circumstances, I am unable to continue my role as conductor for this production,” wrote Mechavich in an email to the Kentucky Opera board and opera patrons.

Contract negotiations between the Louisville Orchestra and musicians have stalled since last year and performances have ceased. Last week the Louisville Orchestra extended a final offer to musicians, saying it would enter into binding arbitration with musicians or replace the orchestra with non-union members. The musicians have not yet announced whether they would take the deal.

Mechavich is the latest to feel pressure from the union and to fear losing credibility in the industry. According to a Kentucky Opera email Mechavich was told by other companies he could not conduct their performances if he continued with the Louisville Orchestra.

In his letter, Mechavich writes:

“The patrons, board members, musicians and staff of the Kentucky Opera remain dear to my heart. The strength and character of this great city has had a profound effect on my life; I will always be a part of this community.

It is my fervent hope to return soon to The Brown Theatre and the wonderful people of the Kentucky Opera –- as your conductor and as your friend.”

I have long thought that a major obstacle to replacing an orchestra with non-union musicians would be the refusal of industry professionals to have anything to do with the replacement orchestra. This would suggest that the Louisville Orchestra will have the same problem, assuming of course that they could even put a replacement orchestra together – something that the latest offer of binding arbitration, as bogus as it is, would indicate is proving problematic.

But the kicker is in the last line of the article, which assures the public as to the competency of the replacement conductor, whoever he or she may be:

Opera officials say Mechvich will be replaced by an individual not being named at this time. That individual holds a degree in conducting according to officials.

And I hold a certificate in piloting an aircraft, according to the FAA. I’m looking forward to the many job offers to fly A380s to exotic destinations I’m sure will now flood my inbox.

About the author

Robert Levine
Robert Levine

Robert Levine has been the Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony since September 1987. Before coming to Milwaukee Mr. Levine had been a member of the Orford String Quartet, Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, with whom he toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and South America. Prior to joining the Orford Quartet, Mr. Levine had served as Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for six years. He has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, and the Oklahoma City Symphony, as well as serving as guest principal with the orchestras of Indianapolis and Hong Kong.

He has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, the Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), and numerous community orchestras in Northern California and Minnesota. He has also been featured on American Public Radio's nationally broadcast show "St. Paul Sunday Morning" on several occasions.

Mr. Levine has been an active chamber musician, having performed at the Festival Rolandseck in Germany, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Palm Beach Festival, the "Strings in the Mountains" Festival in Colorado, and numerous concerts in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. He has also been active in the field of new music, having commissioned and premiered works for viola and orchestra from Minnesota composers Janika Vandervelde and Libby Larsen.

Mr. Levine was chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians from 1996 to 2002 and currently serves as President of the Milwaukee Musicians Association, Local 8 of the American Federation of Musicians, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras. He has written extensively about issues concerning orchestra musicians for publications of ICSOM, the AFM, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, and the League of American Orchestras.

Mr. Levine attended Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in Switzerland. His primary teachers were Aaron Sten and Pamela Goldsmith. He also studied with Paul Doctor, Walter Trampler, Bruno Giuranna, and David Abel.

He lives with his wife Emily and his son Sam in Glendale.

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