Kentucky Opera conductor Joe Mechavich is stepping down amid the controversial decision to seat non-union musicians for the upcoming opera performance of The Merry Widow. “Given these circumstances, I am unable to continue my role as conductor for this production,” wrote Mechavich in an email to the Kentucky Opera board and opera patrons.
Contract negotiations between the Louisville Orchestra and musicians have stalled since last year and performances have ceased. Last week the Louisville Orchestra extended a final offer to musicians, saying it would enter into binding arbitration with musicians or replace the orchestra with non-union members. The musicians have not yet announced whether they would take the deal.
Mechavich is the latest to feel pressure from the union and to fear losing credibility in the industry. According to a Kentucky Opera email Mechavich was told by other companies he could not conduct their performances if he continued with the Louisville Orchestra.
In his letter, Mechavich writes:
“The patrons, board members, musicians and staff of the Kentucky Opera remain dear to my heart. The strength and character of this great city has had a profound effect on my life; I will always be a part of this community.
It is my fervent hope to return soon to The Brown Theatre and the wonderful people of the Kentucky Opera –- as your conductor and as your friend.”
Opera officials say Mechvich will be replaced by an individual not being named at this time. That individual holds a degree in conducting according to officials.