Orchestra leader says classical music cuts “not acceptable”

10 Apr 2024

Funding cuts are destroying Britain’s “top-notch” classical music organisations, according to the new chief conductor at the London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Antonio Pappano.

Speaking at the launch of LSO’s new season, Pappano said: “Do you want to see them die little by little? Look at the struggles, look at the ENO, the WNO. These places are in trouble, and it is not acceptable.”

He said that concerns around whether classical music was “specialist, elitist”, distracted organisations “when they should be concentrating on making good work and quality performances”.

Pappano also criticised Arts Council England, saying the funding body “did not seem to be supporting" classical music organisations and only held “discussions focused on community, diversity, and all those social aspects."

“It is not the LSO or Royal Philharmonic or London Philharmonic’s ­responsibility to educate children. It is the government’s job to start educating children and creating not only talent for the future but also audiences," said Pappano.

“The amount of responsibility given to organisations to correct something that should be done by the government is unfair, frankly.”

LSO, an ACE National Portfolio Organisation, has seen its annual investment from the funding body drop from £2,246,641 to £1,977,044. Pappano joins the orchestra from the Royal Opera House, which has seen its own annual investment from ACE - the largest grant awarded to any single organisation - fall from £25,211,186 to £22,268,584.

Welsh National Opera musicians face reduced contracts

An exterior shot of Wales Millennium Centre, home to Welsh National Opera
02 Apr 2024

Proposed cuts would see performers paid less as a result of reduced working hours, with Musicians’ Union saying the  situation is a 'direct result of underfunding and defunding of opera'. 

Arts leaders criticised for membership of male-only club

26 Mar 2024

Several arts leaders representing Arts Council England (ACE) National Portfolio Organisations have faced criticism after The Guardian revealed they hold membership to the exclusive, all-male Garrick Club.

Alex Beard, the Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, which receives ACE’s largest individual investment of over £22m per year, has been named a member, as has the Chair at English National Opera, Harry Brünjes, the Artistic Director of the Wigmore Hall, John Gilhooly, and the Chief Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, Antonio Pappano.

A spokesperson for Her Ensemble, an organisation that campaigns for equality in classical music, said the presence of many leading figures on the membership list “ultimately undermines a lot of the progress that the industry is making and encourages inequality.”

In a statement to The Guardian, ACE said, “Personal memberships of this kind are a matter for the individuals concerned”. 

ACE added that as a distributor of public money, “we make clear that we expect our investment to support cultural experiences and job opportunities to be available for everyone in England, irrespective of where they live, their background or how much money they have in their pocket”.

Jude Kelly, former Artistic Director of Southbank Centre and founder of the Women of the World Foundation, said senior figures in the arts should resign their membership.

“It behoves people who are leaders in the arts to not frequent it any longer. I don’t understand why anybody would think that it’s still OK to join a men-only members’ club,” she said.

The club, founded in 1831 as a meeting place for actors, previously held a formal vote on admitting women in 2015, with 50.5% supporting a rule change, failing to meet the required two-thirds majority. 

Garrick club members, including leading lawyers, the head of the civil service and King Charles, are expected to vote on the matter again in June. 

Significant challenges 'may limit opera sector ambitions'

Malcolm Ridley as Harrison Howell Kiss me Kate Opera North tour 2018
08 Mar 2024

A report into the opera sector commissioned by Arts Council England has warned that the rising costs of staging productions are outstripping income.

Welsh National Opera criticises 'reckless' ACE cuts

Performance of In Parenthesis by Welsh National Opera
04 Mar 2024

Open letter from the company's Music Director says cuts have left it with a budget that is "not even sufficient for a small regional theatre".

Musicians accept ENO agreement with 'heavy hearts’ 

MU members protesting outside the Coliseum
15 Feb 2024

The orchestra at English National Opera has agreed in principle to a deal including seven months' guaranteed work and a minimum redundancy payment.

Improved redundancy offer for backstage ENO workers

The London Coliseum, the current home of English National Opera
06 Feb 2024

Backstage workers at English National Opera receive revised redundancy offer, which trade union Bectu is encouraging them to accept.

English National Opera strike suspended

Protesters outside The Coliseum hold purple placards reading 'Save our ENO'
29 Jan 2024

Strike action by staff at English National Opera had been due to begin later this week on the opening night of The Handmaid’s Tale.

ENO staff vote for strike action

Cast of English National Opera’s Iolanthe 2023 © Craig Fuller
17 Jan 2024

English National Opera plans to axe 19 posts in its orchestra, and make the chorus, orchestra and music staff part-time as part of efforts to adapt to lower levels of income.

Equity plans ENO strike ballot after talks stall

22 Dec 2023

Equity has announced plans to ballot its members in the English National Opera (ENO) chorus on industrial action in the new year after objecting to plans put forward by management to reduce the number of singers and cut the salaries of remaining members.

The union says that the changes result from plans to limit ENO's opera season in London as it establishes a new part-time base in Manchester ahead of 2029, a funding condition imposed by Arts Council England (ACE). Equity says the proposals would see the salaries of the chorus drop by 40%, with contracts covering six months of the year. 

Since ENO's relocation to the North West was confirmed earlier this month, Equity claims “management has been unable to confirm what their plans for activity in the new base will be and have refused to guarantee any involvement in Manchester for their existing artistic workforce,” adding that negotiations “have now stalled”. 

Ronald Nairne, ENO Chorus member and workplace representative for Equity, said: “There is currently no suggestion that we, the chorus, the orchestra, or the technical teams will be involved in anything at all in Manchester.”

The union's demands include that existing chorus members be given first refusal of any work in Manchester and a regular weekday off each week to plan for other work. They are requesting a seven-month permanent contract, with a paid holiday to be taken additionally.

The ballot will open on Thursday, 4 January, and includes the potential for strike action.

Previously, ENO has said that the cuts are necessary as it “reevaluates [its] employment levels” following a reduction in funding from ACE. The company also intends to reduce the size of its orchestra and introduce part-time contracts for the remaining musicians. 

Backstage staff at ENO, including Stage management, whom Equity also represents,  will similarly be affected by cuts to working hours and income.

Hilary Hadley, Equity Assistant General Secretary for Live Performance, said the current proposals were “disastrous”, adding that members had given “clear direction to ballot on industrial action”.

She said: “The ENO’s proposals short-change audiences and opera in London and Manchester. Manchester will suffer from stripped-back productions without the ENO chorus – serving Manchester audiences only half the ENO experience. At the same time, drastically reducing the ENO’s opera season in London will be hugely detrimental to providing affordable and accessible opera in the city.”

Opera plans: ACE to launch sector consultation

Ben McAteer, Ellie Laugharne, Ruairi Bowen & ENO Chorus for ENO’s Iolanthe 2023
11 Dec 2023

The funder has faced significant criticism in response to its investment decisions relating to opera for its 2023-26 National Portfolio.

ENO confirms Greater Manchester move

Aerial View of City Buildings in Manchester
05 Dec 2023

The opera company says it plans to work with multiple partners and venues across the Greater Manchester region with a focus on new developments in the artform.

Opera leader accuses Arts Council Wales of 'maladministration'

Mid Wales Opera's production of Beatrice & Benedict
30 Nov 2023

Mid Wales Opera has claimed that Arts Council Wales' latest funding round showed prejudice against conventional opera and classical music. 

AI: Opera in a contemporary format

A performance of OpeRAVE: ARia at Milton Court
29 Nov 2023

A recent project at Guildhall School of Music & Drama explored the intersection of traditional opera with evolving creative technologies, as visual artist Dan Shorten explains.

ENO still seeking buyer for £11m rehearsal space

Exterior of Lilian Baylis House
15 Nov 2023

Continuing efforts to sell building come amid proposed staff cuts to deal with reduced income.

Taking up the fight for regional opera

Production image of Cinderella, Norwich Theatre
15 Nov 2023

After Glyndebourne Opera cancelled its schedule of regional touring for 2023, Norwich Theatre’s Stephen Crocker was inundated with calls from disappointed audience members. 

Demand for opera remains strong, study finds

Rossini’s La Cenerentola by English Touring Theatre
08 Nov 2023

Research undertaken by regional theatre finds that despite a huge reduction in touring opera, demand for the artform has not declined.  

Bradford to benefit from Royal Opera House collaboration

02 Nov 2023

The Royal Opera House has announced a three-year programme of work in Bradford ahead of its tenure as City of Culture in 2025.

Beginning with a Christmas concert at Bradford Cathedral in December, the Covent Garden-based company will partner with organisations in West Yorkshire to provide a range of events, performances and activities for young people and local communities.

Working with schools across the region, the Royal Opera House will bring some of its existing educational initiatives to the city, including Create & Sing, Create & Dance, and Create & Design programmes, offering students and teachers free resources, workshops and shows.
 
It will also roll out its talent development program for aspiring ballet dancers, Chance to Dance, to local primary and dance schools. 

The Royal Opera House is the second Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation to announce a cultural collaboration this week after the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra unveiled a three-year programme of concerts, community events and educational activities in the Cumbrian port of Barrow-in-Furness.

Alex Beard, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, said: “We believe the arts have the capacity to change lives, and I hope that this partnership and the many events, performances and activities that come out of it, alongside the work we will be doing with teachers and schools across the region, will inspire imaginations across this great city over the many years ahead.”

ENO chorus cuts causing 'profound anxiety'

02 Nov 2023

Proposed cuts to English National Opera's (ENO) chorus will cause "profound anxiety" to freelance singers and have "repercussions" that will "ripple across the entire UK opera workforce", according to members of performers' union Equity.

Equity's Singers and Opera Deputies Committees have released a joint statement expressing its concern over the impact of job losses and pay cuts to ENO’s chorus.

According to Equity, the proposals include reducing the chorus' contract length from 10 to six months of the year and a 40% cut in salary. It would also see a reduction in the size of the chorus on the new six-month "permanent" contracts to 36 singers, down from its current membership of 37 and three fixed-term fellowship positions. 

The cuts emerged alongside plans to downsize ENO's orchestra and cut some of its technical staff.

In the statement, the committees were critical of ACE's handling of ENO's core funding. It said: "These cuts have not occurred in isolation. Arts organisations are looking to rebuild after the pandemic with insufficient public funding.

"When Arts Council England removed ENO from the National Portfolio in November 2022, it did so seemingly without any strategy or rationale behind how funding decisions were made.

“Meanwhile, cuts were also made to other companies, which have reduced the amount of work available for singers, both in terms of the amount of opera produced and the number of singers engaged, putting the workforce under strain.

"Towns and cities such as Milton Keynes and Liverpool will be deprived of large-scale touring opera, running directly counter to the aims of bringing opera to new and regionally diverse audiences.

"Regular work, underpinned by good terms and conditions, is vital in ensuring that those from all backgrounds can access, and remain in, a career in opera.”

The committees have urged ENO to find “a sustainable solution” that would “protect the employment” of chorus members “with a viable income” and called upon ACE to develop a strategy to “provide funding for the public provision of Opera for all, including its dedicated workforce."

ENO has said the cuts are necessary following a reduction in its funding from ACE. The company, which has until 2029 to move its headquarters out of London under ACE plans, has said that following negotiations with the funding body, it was “no longer facing mass permanent redundancies” but was reevaluating employment levels “across every part of the organisation”. 

Scottish Opera reveals plans for new home

31 Oct 2023

Scottish Opera's plans for its new location on a former industrial estate have been released.

The regeneration project, currently in the consultation stages, will see the Glasgow-based company relocate its head office from the city's Charing Cross area to new premises on Spiers Wharf.

The new premises will sit between the existing Edington Street production studios and the canal towpath. Plans for the mixed-use development will incorporate rehearsal and performance spaces as well as film facilities, office and production space and two student accommodation blocks.

Scottish Opera’s new home will include an education and outreach hub with adaptable performance spaces that can function as a recording studio.

The consultation proposal states that the submitted development plans would “help to secure Scottish Opera’s presence within Glasgow for the next 60-plus years by rationalising and consolidating three of our current scattered five premises under one roof to demonstrate measurable economic, business, and artistic advantage”. 

Scottish Opera will submit its complete planning application in early 2024, with construction expected to begin in early 2025.

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