Opera in the Heights Changes More than Artistic Directors

From Rigoletto by Opera in the Heights
From Rigoletto by Opera in the Heights
Illustration by Robin Kachatones

We spoke with David Douglas, chairman of the board of directors for Opera in the Heights, last week regarding the termination of artistic director Enrique Carreón-Robledo. One of the questions we asked Douglas was about the group's finances. Was the decision to terminate Carreón-Robledo in any way based on finances, was it a cost-cutting move? Douglas told us it was not and went on to say, "We are current with all vendors."

Scenic painter Erin Pruetz, who worked with the company for the past four years, says otherwise. According to Pruetz, she's still owed money for her work on the season's second production, Hänsel und Gretel.

And she says she's not the only one.

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Pruetz says she signed a contract with Opera in the Heights! when she first started working with them in 2010, and assumed that contract remained in place over the next four seasons. Up until this season, she had not had any trouble being paid by the organization.

She says she started working on the company's 2014-2015 season-opening production, Rigoletto, and things began going sideways. "At the beginning of this season, everything changed with management and a lot of other things," she tells us. "I was told that [my] contract didn't exist anymore, that they didn't know where it was. They said since there was no contract in place, I would become a subcontractor under Striker Services."

According to Pruetz, the move to make her a subcontractor was news to Rob Roldan and Josh Slisz, Striker's owners. As Roldan, Slisz and Pruetz were friends and had worked on previous shows, they made a verbal contract among the three of them as to Pruetz's pay and went to work on Rigoletto, she says.

Things got weirder when it came time to build and construct the set for Hänsel und Gretel, Pruetz says. Instead of being given a company credit card to purchase the materials they needed, as had been the practice for every production Pruetz had worked on up until then, they were told there were problems with the bank. The trio kept pressing for the funds as opening night was getting closer and closer and they had no materials. According to Pruetz, they were never given a credit card to use. Striker Services was eventually given cash to purchase materials. That had never happened before.

As part of the contract Striker Services signed with Opera in the Heights, Striker was required to strike the set after the close of the production. The trio showed up to strike the set on the Monday after the final performance of Hänsel und Gretel only to find that it had already been taken down. Pruetz said they were told that since they had failed to strike the set, they would not be paid.

"None of the three people that built and painted the set have received payment at all," says Pruetz.

Despite Douglas's "we are current with all vendors" statement, it doesn't sound as if Opera in the Heights is current with this vendor.

We're continuing to reach out to the involved parties and will update this post as soon as we know more.


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