Board Members Quit Over Opera Troupe's Virtual Orchestra
The musicians' union, Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, argues that virtual orchestras threaten the future of live music. It started a letter-writing campaign last week, urging its members to protest to the opera company's board of artistic trustees. "The difference between real musicians and this is substantial," Bill Moriarity, president of Local 802, said in an interview. "It worries me."
Virtual orchestras — whose computerized electronics simulate musical accompaniment — are used to flesh out small groups of musicians by several touring theatrical companies, but thus far their use in New York has been to augment large complements of live players. The controversy over virtual orchestras peaked during the Broadway musicians' strike in March. The producers said they planned to use virtual orchestras if musicians called a work stoppage, but the point became moot when other theater workers' unions went out and Broadway went dark. The dispute was eventually settled with mayoral intervention.