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ENO chorus to be balloted over industrial action

8 February 2016

Equity is to ballot the chorus of English National Opera over industrial action.

The chorus members are facing a 25% cut to their salaries and the loss of four jobs, but Equity's head of live performance Hilary Hadley suggested that a 61% cut is more likely in light of the information provided by ENO.

Hadley also confirmed that ENO management is planning to increase the chorus' hours, remove payment for Sunday working and stop overtime pay. 'There is also a vague proposal that they’ll be able to find the chorus some additional work during the summer months (May-August). However, the existing proposal is that if they do find work it will cut their pay from 75% to 50% of their current salary.'

The 44 choristers are currently paid £32,900 annually. There has been no indication of when cuts to salaries might take place, but redundancies are due to take place in April 2017. However, ENO would like its agreement with Equity in place by the end of March 2016 in order to relay more concrete proposals to the Arts Council.

'We want to make sure that cultural vandalism is not committed while trying to balance the books at the ENO,' said Stephen Spence, assistant general secretary (industrial) of Equity. 'We believe that the proposals that have been put forward are disproportionate, and that they will be critically damaging to the integrity of the opera company.

'We are hopeful that ongoing discussions with the management and the Arts Council will resolve this situation, but the union will not rule anything out. But if we don’t make progress, consideration will be given to a production not proceeding.'

Hadley added: 'We understand that ENO needs to make savings, and we’re absolutely committed to working with them to achieve substantial savings. But what we’re not prepared to do is to cross the line between making some savings and actually destroying the integrity of the opera chorus.

'We do feel that the proposals that are put forward to us, although possibly well meant, are probably going to destroy English National Opera for once and for all.’

A petition launched by Equity calling for these proposals to be scrapped had nearly 1,000 signatures at the time of writing.

An anonymous member of the chorus said: 'Living in London on our current wages is a stretch, and I’m concerned that living on 75% is going to be impossible. We are already working six days a week, sometimes seven, with spread out hours and lots of travelling. If we have to move further out, it will make it a nightmare, if not impossible, to do the job.

'Most of us here have dedicated our lives to singing, to performing, and certainly to this company, but a lot of people will find it unsustainable to have such a pay cut. A job like this is the stuff of dreams for a musician, but since the Arts Council cuts were handed down it’s been a very sad decline in my prospects as a musician, as a performer, and as an artist. I think a lot of us have thought about the other options. That’s not a situation I wanted to be in - this was meant to be a permanent, full time job.

'You can see the sadness among the chorus. Every day I see a different person in tears because everyone is so frightened of what this means for their livelihood and for the future of the arts in this country.

'If management were to ask us, we have plenty of ideas about what we could do in the months when we’re outside the Coliseum. We need to be doing more outreach and smaller projects… We are all very able and would be willing and honoured to give more to increase the output of the company. We feel that’s the best step rather than cutting back and doing less of the same.

'To have to strike would be deeply upsetting. It’s not something we want to do, and it would be the most depressing, devastating thing. The people we care about most are the members of the audience. We want to be performing and we want to give them all we can.

'Our other worry is that it’s bad enough that it’s happening to us, but there are so many people training so hard with the vision of maybe one day being lucky enough to perform at ENO. We feel we’ve reached a pinnacle here, and if that’s no longer a viable option what will they have to work for? What will it do to the future of opera and classical music generally?

'If you take away the chorus and the pay, people will leave and the company will fragment. This is not the end, but we’re concerned that if these proposals go through that this will be the beginning of the end.'

In a statement released earlier today, CEO Cressida Pollock wrote: 'It is not our intention to further casualise the workforce at ENO. We remain committed to retaining a permanent chorus, orchestra and backstage team.

'Whilst we remain committed to our permanent ensembles, we also recognise that we have to make significant cost savings in order for ENO to be a more sustainable organisation in the long-term. We are working towards a solution with the ENO chorus which would see them maintained as a permanent ensemble but with a greater degree of flexibility in their contracts, which reflects the economic reality of ENO’s situation.'

In February 2015, the Arts Council dropped ENO from its national portfolio of organisations for 2015-18, but in November announced that it would extend funding until 2018 while placing the company under special monitoring arrangements.

Erato signs Marianne Crebassa

3 February 2016

Marianne Crebassa
Marianne CrebassaLuc Jennepin

French mezzo-soprano Marianne Crebassa has signed an exclusive recording contract with Erato.

Her repertory encompasses Handel, Gluck, Berlioz, Debussy and Offenbach, but she has won particular acclaim for her Mozart. She sang Cecilio in the Salzburg Festival's 2013 Lucio Silla and Cherubino in the Staatsoper Berlin's 2015 Le nozze di Figaro, and also appeared in a production based on Mozart's oratorio Davide penitente for the 2015 Salzburg Mozart week.

She is well known for performing trouser roles, including Cecilio, Cherubino, Ramiro (La finta giardiniera) and male characters from French grand operas by Chabrier, Gounod, Massenet and Offenbach.

Crebassa made her operatic debut in the Opéra de Montpellier's production of Schumann's Manfred in 2008, and joined Paris Opéra's young artist programme, the Atelier Lyrique, on a two-year contract in 2010. She has since performed in concert halls and opera houses across the world, with highlights including a performance at the opening gala of the Paris Philharmonie and singing the title role in Marc-André's Charlotte Salomon.

Future engagements include Le nozze di Figaro in Vienna, Amsterdam and Milan, Romeo et Juliette in Chicago, La clemenza di Tito with the Opéra di Paris, and the title role of Fantasio with the Opéra-Comique.

Alain Lanceron, president of Warner Classics and Erato, said: 'Since her first appearances in concert and on stage, Marianne Crebassa has captivated the international music scene thanks to the exceptional quality of her vocal timbre and her innate musicality. We are delighted to welcome this jewel into the Erato family and look forward to a stellar future with her.'

Crebassa will release her debut album with the Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg and Marc Minkowski in November 2016. Speaking of the recording, she said: 'This album is close to my heart - it feels like a natural continuation of the personal and artistic connections I've made since my debut at the Salzburg Festival. This great musical city and the Mozarteum have supported me unfailingly from the beginning, as well as Marc Minkowski, with whom I have shared the stage many times.'

Marianne Crebassa

ENO Chorus expecting 25% pay cut

3 February 2016

The union Equity has confirmed that the English National Opera Chorus has been told to expect a 25% cut in pay and the loss of at least four jobs.

The Chorus is preparing for industrial action to try and prevent this. According to Equity, they also fear that these actions 'could push ENO into terminal decline'.

The news follows rumours that ENO would dispose of its chorus altogether and that they would be out of work from May until August.

Responding to reports that the company would cut chorus members' contracts by 25%, a spokesperson for ENO said last month: 'We have to be able to operate with significantly reduced funding. As a consequence, we need to look at developing a more flexible way of working while maintaining our artistic integrity. We are unable to comment on specific arrangements, as we are currently in the early stages of negotiations with unions.'

More information will follow next week.

Preview: Opera Holland Park 2016 season

3 February 2016

Opera Holland Park's 2016 season comprises 35 main-stage performances of five operas (all new productions).

The 2016 season, which runs 7 June - 13 August, marks 20 years since the company was established, and its 21st season. It is also its first season since the company secured its independence from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

The season will include the company's first co-production: Rossini's La Cenerentola, in collaboration with Danish National Opera. Oliver Platt will direct the work, with a cast including Nico Darmanin, Nicholas Lester, Victoria Simmonds and Jonathan Veira.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Photo: Alex Brenner
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Photo: Alex Brenner

A rare performance of Mascagni's Iris will be directed by Olivia Fuchs, with a the cast including Anne Sophie Duprels in the title role, with Noah Stewart as Osaka.

Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades will appear in a new production by Rodula Gaitanou, with a cast including Natalya Romaniw as Lisa, Peter Wedd as Hermann, and Rosalind Plowright as the Countess.

Martin Lloyd-Evans will direct Johann Strauss II's Die Fledermaus, which features Jennifer France as Adele, Ben Johnson as Gabriel von Eisenstein and Susanna Hurrell as Rosalinde. 

Stephen Barlow's new production of Puccini's La bohème will feature Anna Patalong and Shaun Dixon as Mimì and Rodolfo. Members of OHP's Christine Collins Young Artists scheme will perform the work on 24 June.

The season is completed by Will Todd's family opera Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which will return for the fourth year, and four performances from the Royal Ballet School.

Booking opens on 15 February at 10am, with tickets costing £15-£75.

Opera Holland Park

ENO announces recipients of Charles Mackerras fellowship

26 January 2016

Conductors Toby Purser and Matthew Waldren have been appointed as joint recipients of the English National Opera Charles Mackerras fellowship.

This is the first time the award will be shared by two conductors, who will take up the two-year positions in September 2016.

Purser and Waldren will have the opportunity to assist on ENO productions and will have full access to the casting, staging and production departments. They will receive mentoring from music director Mark Wigglesworth, with whom they will be able to travel in order to make contacts across the operatic world.

'The panel was unanimous that both Matthew Waldren and Toby Purser revealed the right combination of potential and skill to benefit from this amazing opportunity,' said Wigglesworth, 'And so sharing the Fellowship was the inevitable and exciting outcome of this year's audition process. I look forward to welcoming these two exceptional talents to English National Opera.'

By the end of his tenure, current fellow Fergus Macleod will have assisted on eight productions. He said: 'My time at ENO has been invaluable. It is a truly incredible place to work. The support and guidance I have received, not only from Mark and Ed but from the whole company, will guide me for many years to come.

'I hope that Matthew and Toby find the scheme as beneficial as I have and wish them all the very best for their time at such a special company.'

Purser assisted on the world premiere of Julian Anderson's Thebans for ENO in 2014, and made his company conducting debut with two performances of The Marriage of Figaro later that year. He regularly conducts at Grange Park Opera and has performed at the Buxton Festival. He is founder and conductor of the Orion Orchestra.

Waldren was appointed music director of the inaugural Christine Collins young artist scheme at Opera Holland Park in 2012, where he recently conducted Lakmé and Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Recent engagements include Alice's Adventures in Wonderland at the Royal Opera House and assisting Xian Zhang on ENO's La bohème in 2015.

The ENO Charles Mackerras fellowship marks the legacy of the company's music director between 1970 and 1977. The scheme was launched in 2012, with Gergely Madaras the inaugural fellow.

ENO Charles Mackerras fellowship

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