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Opera orchestra regroups as a radical co-op

The trials and tribulations of Scottish Opera are never-ending.

Founded by Alexander Gibson in 1962, the company has never been properly funded and has long tried to offload the orchestra (founded 1980), its heaviest overhead. After 20 years of cuts, the orchestra is down to 50 players, working 28 weeks a year.

But the musicians are unhappy. They like to play. They want devolution, possibly independence.

So they have formed a cooperative, McOpera, and are open for business – with big ambitions. Read all about it in the Herald.

Orchestra for the website


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  1. Peter Freeman says:

    Surely much older than that? I seem to remember seeing them in the sixties, and certainly throughout the seventies.

  2. There was another orchestra, a long time ago, who became a radical co-op after being badly treated. Today they employ someone called Simon Rattle to stand on the podium and thieir appearances this week in Paris are the year’s hottest tickets

    • Right. And also don’t forget the London Philharmonic which in its salad days was managed by one of its members, the violist Thomas Russell, who was as innovative as any in keeping that orchestra relevant to the community during and after WWII, and solvent at the same time. Russell’s books on the subject of orchestral management are still around and while the system (the Fabian socialists and Adrian Boult, whom he had brought in as conductor) set him up and iced him out, his ideas are still relevant. (He was a Communist who was involved in the early post-war Peace Movement when it was considered subversive, though he did not bring his politics into own job as manager.

    • Michael says:

      It’s not that simple though. The BP were never a really completely independent co-op. In the same year they founded themselves, they were taken over and run by the concert agency Hermann Wulff for the next 50 years. The orchestra suffered badly during the depression of the late 20s/early 30s, so in 1932, the city of Berlin, the national government and radio started subsidizing them. During the NS regime, the government fully funded the orchestra. After the war, the Senate of Berlin financed the orchestra, supported by the federal government. Now it is technically not run by the city anymore, it is a foundation to which the Senate contributes a large chunk of the budget.
      But that is only possible in a country in which the government is prepared to subsidize the arts on a large scale. That can not happen in Britain as there are other priorities. For instance, a new fleet of nuclear submarines which they really, really need so Britannia can still “rule the waves”. At least in their mind.

      • Michael says:

        Correction: Hermann Wolff (not Wulff!) helped them set up their own concerts in 1882, the year the BP founded the orchestra, but he only took over management of their concerts in 1887, after they had run into financial trouble. He was responsible for hiring Hans von Bülow as well as his successor, Arthur Nikisch. His widow Luise hired Furtwängler and she ran the agency until 1934 when she liquidated it in order to escape the constant meddling of Nazi authorities.

      • Helps, of course, when you can rely on an umbrella provided by neighbouring countries.

        • Michael says:

          Not really. In the EU and NATO, no country, certainly not one of the bigger ones, certainly not Germany, relies on their neighbors providing an “umbrella”. They all work together. It’s just a matter of priorities and a realistic assessment of what the threats are in the current situation; and of what role culture and education should play in the grand scheme of things.

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