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  • Writer's pictureZach Finkelstein

BREAKING: Des Moines Metro Opera Guarantees to Honor All Artistic Contracts In 2020 Summer Festival

On March 18th, the General and Artistic Director Michael Egel and President of the Board of Directors, Susan E. Voss told their 2020 Festival Artists that the organization has "committed to honoring all existing contracts with artistic personnel through the 2020 Summer Season". This statement made clear it would pay artists even if they were unable to attend the festival due to the COVID-19 crisis.

When asked to comment, Michael Egel said that "all preparations are continuing full steam ahead for 2020 for three new mainstage productions as well as a company premiere of Fellow Travelers".

Fellow Travelers, a company premiere in partnership with One Iowa, Capital City Pride and the Hoyt Sherman Place Foundation, is a 2016 opera set during the "Lavender Scare" of the 1950s, "a US government employment purge that resulted in thousands of firings and resignations of men and women believed to be members of the LGBTQ+ community".

Egel is "optimistic" the productions won't come to a halt, but they are prepared for it. Michael and his staff proposed making the guarantee to artists to the executive committee of DMMO, who recommended it to the board of directors at their March 18th meeting.

When asked why he proposed the guarantee, Michael Egel responded, "we felt that making a strong statement of commitment to artists was exactly the right mission-based move right now".

Michael also provided the text of what might be the most compassionate and empathetic communication to artists from management since the COVID-19 crisis began. The statement reads as follows:

At Des Moines Metro Opera, we speak often about family. For 48 seasons, our strength has been our people – people like you who have rallied around the creation of something bigger than ourselves. There’s a sense of belonging that infuses everything we do. It draws together a community of artists, musicians, designers and production personnel each summer to create incredible and imaginative performances. Our artists and staff are the heart, soul and backbone of our Company. We are strong today because of your voices, vision and talent. Those of us on the audience side of the stage are the beneficiaries of your increasingly breathtaking work every summer. We want to assure you at this time that our plans and preparations for the upcoming 2020 Summer Festival Season are moving forward. Visual and creative teams have been instructed to continue creating full steam ahead. If we encounter challenges, we will look for other avenues. Of course, we continue to monitor government recommendations and information as it becomes available to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved. But I write to you to reaffirm the value that we place on you, your work and its importance to our thriving company. Tonight, the Des Moines Metro Opera Board of Directors and I have committed to honoring all existing contracts with artistic personnel for the 2020 Summer Festival Season, regardless of whether or not we are able to gather in person at the end of May. We have weathered many storms, both literal and figurative. I know we will weather this one as well. When today's challenges are behind us, we will have greater need than ever for live performance and we hope that this assurance to you will position all of us to be there when that time comes. For now, we look forward to seeing you this summer!

Thank you Michael, Susan, and the board for your leadership in our time of need.

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