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Uproar as Opera Australia ‘rests’ singers for up to three months

Ensemble singers at Australian opera have been told they will have to go up to three months without pay.

A fortnight after the company announced a record $100 million turnover, artistic director Lyndon Terracini has told singers on 12-month contracts that they will be ‘rested’ without pay for six to 12 weeks next year. About 20 singers are affected, ad they are justly furious.

australia opera


They have bombarded a dedicated Facebook page with fury and frustration. Sample comments:

- It is an appalling situation that an “opera” company, that receives $20 million dollars worth of tax-payer government funding per annum, lay off its own ensemble “opera” singers in favour of casting a musical, and instead choosing to use music theatre singers to present a musical whilst operatically trained singers are “rested” without pay.

- This makes me feel sick. Considering the singers mentioned are some of the finest, hardest working and best reviewed singers in the company and the country. The feelings this brings up are all to familiar. Of feeling completely let down by a company you felt like you had invested so much time, energy and love into.

- Can someone please tell me what ( if anything ) the MEAA union are doing about this? These singers (like all of us), pay our fees to have someone represent us, and defend our basic right of employ in situations such as this. The silence is deafening….

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  1. I suggest that the singers accept their punishment with TWO conditions: THEY (the singers) get to choose the days they rest, and that there be no restrictions on the singers choice of days or hours off or number of minutes or hours notification needed.

    With a bit of imagination they could juggle their combined roles, special events, fund-raising activities, so that the (mis)management would end up holding the bag.


  2. Luciano says:

    This is the same Lyndon Terracini, who has proudly proclaimed that he will have ‘no fattys’ on stage. This is a gross attack on the singers who make up the backbone of an opera company, and all to put on another musical!

    Presumably the board will stand behind Mr Terracini. Given this is the same board that unceremoniously sacked Simone Young, you have to wonder what they believe the mission of an opera company should be.

  3. Ha! Sounds like virtually all of the independent musicians and composers in Australia who aren’t in the $100000000 opera game

  4. i.e. try being ‘rested’ for most of your career

  5. Boohoo! says:

    These singers have had it good for a long time. Freelance singers live this reality of months with out work. It would have been nice to be in the company but sometimes you can’t get in. So, you work at Coles or teach or just survive. Welcome to our world.
    I do believe that this is a terrible decision though. You must retain an ensemble otherwise standards fall. The best singers still have to pay rent just like everyone else. The danger is that you will lose them to another reliable job. Lyndon employed young singers for his last opera on the Harbor. Interstate singers had to make their own way to Sydney and then pay for their own accommodation. Expoitation.
    So, boo hoo you ensemble singers but this reality may change, in the meantime, harden the @#$% up and get a job.

    • Nickduke says:

      Boohoo..this is no time or place to vent your bile..!!..I suspect you should ‘get over it’ & accept your own personal limitations and life choices, show support & compassion rather than getting the ‘boot-in’ to what should be your fellow colleagues and musicians. But some people are not big enough or long-sighted enough to see the big picture when the heart & mind is clouded by envy and discontent I guess…pity!!

      • Boohoo says:

        Your words are si full if compassion Nik,so full of empathy. Thank you for your advice, we should all learn from your words of love and understanding. I guess.. Pity.

  6. Ensemble singers on permanent contracts – why? Surely there is not enough new repertory or rehearsals or coaching to occupy them all for 8 hours a day, 7 days a week for 48 weeks of the year (assuming they get a month’s holiday)? Most of the repertory they would know like the back of their hand …

    • There are more than 250 operas in the standard repertory. And whilst some operas such as Boheme and Flute get done every other year, there are always additional works to be learnt. To learn an opera to a professional standard takes 1-6 months of daily work depending on the size of the role. In a good career an artist might perform 50-100 different roles. Ironically, it is the international freelance artists who often travel the world specialising in one or two roles, and they are well remunerated (rightly) for their interpretation. Ensemble artists who at OA are paid on average less than the median Australian wage have been known to be required to sing Verdi, Wagner and Puccini on consecutive nights, and on non performance days they work to learn new repertoire. The ensemble is the backbone of a company that put on 235 mainstage operatic performances last year and is populated by world class artists who have chosen to sacrifice income for job security. I hope this helps you understand why this move by OA is such a disrespectful outrage that upsets a model that has worked for over thirty years.

  7. Prof Doug Grant says:

    Music no longer counts at OA . Having Teracini as Artistic Director is a complete joke. But, to be honest, this is what one expects in today’s Australia.

  8. Tomas2 says:

    With limited exceptions of the most “operatic” musicals, I have yet to see a decent production of a musical at an opera house. Particularly when they cast operatically trained singers to tackle “I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair.”

  9. Boohoo says:

    Art is not a business of money making. It never was. It needs support.

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