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Subject: Re: Age Discrimination/Laws/Careers
From: cj williamson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:cj williamson <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 20 Aug 1998 14:08:38 -0400

text/plain (71 lines)

I guess my question with this whole discrimination issue is exactly what
Ken and Ed have stated, but I wonder if it is true in the real world of the
arts.  For example, Ed Rosen wrote: "...when we start capitalizing the word
"Art" and place it before moral obligation, contracts, etc., then something
is real wrong with the management that would do that; and something is
lacking in us if we countenance it."

Well, singers/managers frequently capitalize the word Money and also place
it before moral obligation, contracts, etc. when they do such things as
feign illness to take a more lucrative contract.  One General Director said
to me, "I don't know why we bother to have contracts at all." Until
singers/managers take contracts more seriously, I don't know that we can
hold management to them either.  It can't be a one way street.

And I keep getting stuck between the issues of great performance and
rights/fairness/equal opp/etc.  I talked to the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission today. Although it is clear to me how the Age
Discrimination Act applies in hiring a secretary, it isn't clear in matters
of art. ( or, Ed,  "Art!") Just from reading posts on this list, one learns
that audience members want stars onstage; they pay for stars and feel
cheated when they don't get them.

Met General Director Bliss said in the NY Times 5/12/78 about the now
famous age discrimination suit:  "There is the danger of a precedent being
set.  We never objected to Ms. Amara as a company member who could function
as a valuable cover artist.  We simply did not want to guarantee her
performances in operas that she wanted to sing but we felt were not
appropriate for her." He also said, "Whenever possible, we like to replace
one artist with another of equivalent stature.  This is a policy that we
feel bound to pursue in fairness to the audience, now that the prices of
tickets are so high." (both quotes from NY Times 2/5/81, p. C17)

Ticket prices ARE high.  Does the audience have the right to get what they
pay for--or at least the equivalent?  (I don't think we are talking about
equivalent talent here, but equivalent FAME--two different animals)

Whether Ms. Amara could have had that star career with different treatment
or by making different choices such as choosing not to cover, we will never
know.  It seems likely though.  As one Lister pointed out, as a cover
artist it is difficult to be at the height of artistic readiness,
especially if covering more than one role.  Perhaps no one at the Met ever
saw what she could do dramatically if allowed to bring her whole focus to a
role, as stars are allowed to do.  Ms. Amara is quoted as saying she was
not allowed releases to take other contracts. And in this same NY article,
James Levine is reported to have said, "If Lucine Amara would go away,
change the color of her hair, have a facelift, change her name and come
back within a month singing as she does now, she would be the hottest new
soprano around."

There are some valuable lessons in this career for singers.


Ms. CJ Williamson, Editor
Classical Singer Magazine (formerly The New York Opera Newsletter)
P.O. Box 278
Maplewood, NJ 07040
P:  973-378-9549
F:  973-378-2372
E:  [log in to unmask]

Classical Singer is the leading organization for singers worldwide.  Visit
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