The peremptory cut to the contracts of principal singers at Opera Australia is not an isolated act of callous management on a distant continent. It is a point of principle on which singers the world over need to take a stand.
Jacqui Dark, Kanen Breen, Dominica Matthews, Warwick Fyfe and other contract artists at Opera Australia have been told that they will be ‘rested’ next season without pay for up to three months while Sydney puts on The King and I – a box-office hit which neither requires nor deserves public subsidy. The rested artists have no protection. OA is by far the continent’s biggest company. If they lose their status, they will have to emigrate to find work, or leave the profession.
Henry Choo, a professional singer, sums up the position on Bel Canto‘s Facebook page: Being side-lined without pay in favour of musical-theatre trained singers is not only a slap in the face and insult to their significant and loyal contribution to Opera Australia over their many years of employ, but contradicts many points listed in the company’s own mission statement.
So, what is to be done? The singers’ revolution that is being led by Elisabeth Kulman in Austria and Germany needs to take wings. A basic set of singers rights should be quickly compiled and turned into a charter that opera houses and festivals will be obliged to sign. The charter will need backing from big names to be effective but I have no doubt that some of the biggest will come through in support of their profession. (Joyce, are you reading us today?)
It’s the only way to stop random bastards riding roughshod over dedicated artists.
UPDATE: A response from Opera Australia here.