Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lauren Flanigan Discusses Legal Troubles in Opera News

"In September 2000, she was about to open in New York City Opera's Mark Lamos production of Roberto Devereux. It was a high-pressure engagement, since she was taking on the role in which Beverly Sills had triumphed at the company decades earlier. Just prior to the opening, she made headlines in New York City for being sued for nonpayment of commission by her former representative, Merle Hubbard, and was forced to declare bankruptcy. 'Part of the problem was I had so much trouble in '98 and '99. I was sued by my former agent. I legitimately owed him money — but not like 'thousands of dollars from ten years of service.' Typically what happens is that when a singer goes to another agent, the new agent and the old one work it out. It's a little-known part of contract law that you can't break a contract without paying out the value of the contract. The question was why would they do this, when it was about so little money? We're talking $4,500. I think they just really wanted to ruin my reputation. The lawyer fees drove the costs up so high that I couldn't pay anybody.' Merle Hubbard, the complainant, was joined in the case by Flanigan's former managers Robert Lombardo and Herbert Breslin. In an interview before his death, in August 2011, Hubbard offered his view of the situation. 'Lauren?' he asked facetiously. 'What court case? She declared bankruptcy and got away with it. I never got a cent. She owed me $28,000, and if you add in lawyers' fees and court case and blah blah blah, it came to close to $40,000. That was for completed contracts that she never paid for. I took [composer] Marvin David Levy to hear her, and he decided she should do Mourning Becomes Electra and talked Chicago Lyric into breaking a signed contract and giving it to Lauren, and she did it in Seattle and New York as well. That's just one. She'd pay occasionally and then send me letters saying, 'I don't want you to work for me anymore,' and then I'd call her up, and she said, 'Let's do this.' So she's schizoid on that subject. She's a dishonorable lady — and a fine artist.' Flanigan recalls the events that followed: 'The day of the [Devereux] opening, after begging Sills not to come that night, I was in the lawyer's office filing for bankruptcy. I had $400 to my name. The bankruptcy was supposed to stop everything. So City Opera could pay me. I went in front of the bankruptcy judge in November." [Source]