If you’re going to the Texas Ballet Theater’s season-opening gala tonight, you will probably see protesting musicians holding pickets and handing out flyers at the Majestic Theatre. The Dallas-Fort Worth Professional Musicians Association (local 27-147 of the American Federated Musicians) is protesting the decision by the TBT to cancel its contracts with the Fort Worth Symphony and the Dallas Opera Orchestra. They provided live pit orchestras for the TBT’s performances (the FWSO played at Bass Hall, the DOO for The Nutcracker at the Fair Park Music Hall).
The decision in favor of canned music was made by the ballet, TBT officials say, because of the financial constraints the company faces. The TBT has been raising $2 million to stave off bankruptcy and continue its new season.
“We’re very disappointed that they would want to do that,” Margo McCann says of the decision to protest the performance. McCann is the interim managing director of the TBT. “We’ve always used live music when we could. At the Majestic, we’ve never used a live orchestra. The only reason we’re not [using a live orchestra at other performances] is purely financial. It’s the choice between a ballet with taped music or no ballet at all.”
But letter-writer Jennifer Garner (see comments section below), a member of the Dallas Opera Orchestra, and musicians’ union president Ray Hair, have said that the taped music that the TBT will use for Rimsky-Korsakov’s Cleopatra was recorded in China — and that the TBT had been planning to replace the live orchestras with taped music months ago, before the current financial crisis struck.
McCann denies this.
“When we were planning our tour [to China], the [Shanghai] festival was going to provide the orchestra. When that changed, we were forced to have a recording made. Ben [Stevenson, artistic director of the TBT] choreographed that piece, it’s a particular arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Cleopatra. There was no recording of it available.”
“it was pure coincidence,” McCann says that when the TBT cancelled the Texas musicians’ contract to perform Cleopatra in the spring, the dance troupe had the China recording to replace them. “It was never planned that way.”
The sudden need for an additional $70,000 to pay for the TBT’s China tour precipitated the revelations in August about the TBT’s perilous financial circumstances. The tour was canceled, and the TBT went into crisis mode to raise the necessary cash and pledges to perform the gala tonight and open its new season.
In August, the TBT announced its decision to kill the $350,000 contract with the Fort Worth Symphony. But the Garvey Foundation stepped in to underwrite the symphony’s rehearsals and four performances of Mozart’s Requiem with the TBT October 17-19 at Bass Hall. The dance company still owes the FWSO $100,000, though, and the cancellation of the week-long contract for the DOO to perform The Nutcracker in December remains in effect.