Will the Minnesota Orchestra play any music this summer?

Photo by Ann Marsden

Normally at this time of year we’d be telling you about all the wonderful concerts the Minnesota Orchestra has planned for Sommerfest, the annual celebration of classics that brings a touch of sophistication and Strauss to the masses every summer.

Not this year.

Having lost its 2012–13 subscription season to a musician’s lockout that at this writing is stretching into its 10th month, the orchestra took a feeble stab at salvaging some small shred of its dignity by promising—if the lockout is resolved—to play three concerts at the University of Minnesota’s Ted Mann Concert Hall, July 20 through August 3.

Don’t hold your breath (but do cross your fingers), because if the lockout isn’t resolved by the time you read this, the Minnesota Orchestra is in danger of losing much more than a few more concerts. Music director Osmo Vänskä has threatened to resign if the lockout prevents the orchestra from keeping a prestigious Carnegie Hall engagement in November. Principal clarinetist Burt Hara has already left for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Several other key players, including concertmaster Erin Keefe, are said to be entertaining offers elsewhere. Upcoming recording dates could also be rescheduled, and the new $50 million refurbishment of Orchestra Hall and Peavey Plaza could reopen in September with no one to play there.

In May, The New York Times’ classical music critic James Oestreich wondered how such a tragic institutional implosion could happen—in Minneapolis, of all places.

“Surely the great cultural mecca of Minneapolis must want this resolved quickly,” Oestreich speculated. “We in New York do,” he added. “And whatever happens, the world will be watching.”

Yes, the world.