The phantom of this opera is a looming lockout of musicians and backstage crews that could disrupt the new season in New York. This week, Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, vowed to cut off pay and health insurance for union members unless they reach new contracts by July 31. And that seems unlikely, given that the Met and unions representing the orchestra and chorus are only now sitting down to serious negotiations on management's demands for pay and benefit concessions averaging 16 percent to 17 percent. Unions for stagehands and other backstage workers have been meeting with management but remain far from agreement. The Met says deep cuts are essential if the company is to avert financial ruin, while the unions say the money problems have resulted from Gelb's bad management and lavish productions.The last time there was a work stoppage at the Met, in 1980, the company locked out its unions for 11 weeks. Another one now could hamper preparations for the season, set to open Sept. 22 with a new production of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro," followed on consecutive nights by Puccini's "La Boheme" and Verdi's "Macbeth."
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- The Associated Press