Orchestra Hall lease gets snagged in labor dispute

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The protracted dispute between the Minnesota Orchestral Association and the Minnesota Orchestra has complicated the status of the lease on Orchestra Hall.

The Minnesota Orchestra has never played in the newly renovated performing space following the completion of a $52 million renovation project earlier this year. The Star Tribune reports that because the city sponsored a state bonding request for the project, the Orchestra Association association leased the property to the city of Minneapolis for 50 years. The city, in turn, leases it back to the association.

But language in the lease requires the association to report to the city every December that the property is being used as a “performing arts center.” There hasn't been much on stage since the association locked out musicians 14 months ago. The association maintains that the work stoppage exempts it from that condition.

Minneapolis has 45 days to decide if it agrees that the association is in compliance with the lease. If not, a lengthy process requires default notices and provisions for finding a solution. In the case of default, the city could sell its 50-year lease with the state’s permission or find a new operator.

MinnPost reported the locked-out musicians say they have the support of entertainment unions and that no union entertainer or orchestra will perform at Orchestra Hall until there is a settlement.

The Minnesota Orchestra's official website has information for ticket-holders about cancelled concerts. It also shows that Orchestra Hall will host several holiday concerts, including those by choirs from the University of St. Thomas and Concordia College.

In October, music director Osmo Vänskä resigned because of the situation. Several recent attempts to restart talks have gained no traction. The Minnesota Orchestra's former conductor and music director Eiji Oue will return to lead the musicians in two holiday concerts at the Minneapolis Convention Center Auditorium. A spokesman for the musicians told the Star Tribune that musicians "have not said they are interested in taking over the hall. "

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