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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'. 

An exterior shot of Wales Millennium Centre, home to Welsh National Opera
Wales Millennium Centre is home to Welsh National Opera


The Welsh National Opera (WNO) is planning to make savings by offering its musicians reduced contracts, a union has said.

According to the Musicians’ Union (MU), its members in the WNO orchestra are facing a reduction in working weeks, equating to a 15% pay cut as a result of a funding shortfall for the company.

It says the proposal would mean tutti players, who are most often the lowest paid in orchestras, would receive a salary of just over £28,000. The MU said it has long campaigned to ensure all tutti players employed by British orchestras receive more than £30,000, which was achieved for the first time around two years ago.


WNO receives National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) funding from both Arts Council England (ACE) and Arts Council Wales (ACW) but its ACE funding was reduced from £6.24m to £4m a year for the 2023-26 period, a 35% reduction, while it receives £4.1m a year from ACW.

Last June, an open letter from former members of the opera warned a strategic review would see the number of full-time orchestra and chorus members cut to meet funding conditions imposed by ACE.

The opera, which announced it will no longer tour Liverpool following the reduction of its ACE funding, went on to receive the lion’s share of ACE’s Transform Funding, a stream set up to help NPOs adjust to lower levels of funding.

WNO was granted £3.25m through the Transform programme, equivalent to almost 40% of the amount available.

'Devastating situation'

Jo Laverty, MU National Organiser for Orchestras, said WNO’s proposals “are the direct result of underfunding and defunding of opera”. 

“It will impact not just on our members but on WNO's audiences in Wales and England. It will be unsustainable for our members to weather such a hit by falling back to salaries they were on five years ago. It is a devastating situation,” she added.

“This is yet another UK opera company having to contemplate their orchestra moving to part-time employment, meaning stable secure jobs in the profession are simply dying out”.

MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl says the union will work with management to explore alternatives to the proposals and will be taking the issue up with government, supportive MPs and the Arts Councils.

The news follows well-documented cutbacks to opera provision following the start of ACE’s latest regular funding round, with cuts to organisations including English National Opera and Glyndebourne.

In November, Mid Wales Opera accused ACW of “maladministration” and alleged it was unfairly denied funding following Wales’ most recent portfolio announcement.


A Welsh National Opera spokesperson said: “We have undertaken an internal review to ensure that Welsh National Opera remains financially sustainable into the future. 

"The current restructure is not one the company sought but the financial position following significant cuts from both Arts Council England and Arts Council Wales, and the current economic climate means change is unavoidable.  

"The result is a new delivery model which we will implement from our 2025/26 season. The new model will ensure our activity and impact on and off-stage is maintained whilst the company operates as efficiently and flexibly as possible within the resources available. 

“The restructure is currently ongoing with aspects of change yet to be concluded. However, at each stage, we will be clear and transparent with unions and colleagues, who will be involved every step of the way, and every effort will be made to support them.

“This new delivery model will ensure our long-term future as Wales’ national opera company.”