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Singers claim victory over Opera Australia

We’ve been informed by sources close to the singers thatĀ Opera Australia has decided to give 12 months contracts to 16 contracted principals in 2014. The Artistic Director, Lydon Terracini, had wanted to stand most of them down for 10 weeks and told them effectively to claim the dole. Some of them contemplated emigration.

But resistance from the singers, their union, many OA subscribers, some parts of the Australian media and Slipped Disc, has forced the company to back down. The plan to lay off singers accompanied a strategy to produce more commercial stage musicals, at the expense of lyric opera.

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  1. PK Miller says:

    Score one for the good guys. It seems like the arts, internationally, are in jeopardy. There are enough in financial peril–e.g. Historic Cherry Hill, a unique area museum that may run out of funds within 6 weeks. We do not need avaricious management to exacerbate the problem. Work together. If there are legitimate financial problems, WORK TOGETHER, open the books, be frank, develop mutual solutions. But when there’s mistrust, it seems one side is trying to take advantage of the other, NOTHING will be accomplished except the demise of the organization.

    • I don’t mean to rant at you, but in the same comment in which you say everyone must work together and develop mutual solutions, you also divide the “sides” into good and bad. Maybe I am misunderstanding you, but I see just as much hostility directed toward management – even by random bystanders on comment boards – as I see people claiming that management must obviously be hostile toward the musicians or else the musicians would always get their way.

      This idea that management is “avaricious” implies that management has some financial stake, as though they are investors trying to squeeze out their profits like is common in the private sphere. It’s generally safe to assume that management wants the budget to balance so the organization can continue operating. While they may not make the best decisions, claiming that their “greed” is getting in the way seems to me to completely misunderstand why arts organizations have professional managers to begin with.

  2. Patrick Power says:

    This is very good news.For the last 20 years Australia has been a country where it is possible for young singers to establish a career while working full time at their craft.The strength of an opera house standard often lies in the minor principal role casting from fresh young singers and the old “rutinerte” character singers that former lead principals sometimes become as their voices and figures pass their peak.
    Mr Terracini was going to lose that opportunity for young Australians and the depth of casting available to the company.
    The silly thing is that Music Theatre has been done very successfully in Australia with opera singers.As it is in Germany. With the likes of Irene Bartlett in Brisbane available to teach them a safe mixed belt,they actually have less problems vocally over a long run.The VSO kept afloat for some years doing Music Theatre cast cast largely with classical singers.
    I thought the intemperateness of Mr Teracini’s attack on Norman Lebrecht also revealed a lack of balance and deep thought.

  3. tomato face says:

    Thanks for your support on this issue Norman and to the artists who risked their livelihoods to stand up and be counted , work together with their union and present a united stand. Without the confidence of its core of artists , the chorus, principals , technical staff and orchestra –management risks having nothing to present to their “wider audience” and becoming a puppet of international agencies and commercial entrepreneurs.Let’s hope they also realise that wholesale importing of largely unknown artists from overseas does not fill the coffers or build audience -but undermines the industry in a country as geographically isolated as Australia. Build careers, stars from our own universities and training programs , working side by side with special inspiring artists from overseas from roles that cannot be cast with Aussies here or expatriate. The profession is fragile enough without management turning its back on its own creatives.

  4. Blair Edgar says:

    The arts are essential as a refection and a mirror as a pathway to growth and as an area to nurture talents across spectrum. There us no love fore arts in Canberra, no understanding now that Simon Crean is gone. In recent time Crean alone understood. of investing in ourselves not indulging ourselves. Part time singers part time dancers part time actors part time musicians. the arts are not a hobby they are a vocation you have to work at. Dame Peggy van Praagh made that point when she established the Australian Ballet out of the part time Borovansky Ballet. “52 pay days a year” she said or I cannot do it!! She had Harold Holt on side. Today there is no one.. Too much money far far far too much money has ben spent in the past on overcrowded over decorated over weight productions. Get rid of them, be innovative, use bare stages brilliantly lit, the drama lies in the music. Opera is an elite sport with elite athletes taking part. It is a working class occupation. You roll your sleeves up and do it. Why do talented people leave Australia. Because flat footed buymbli8n bureaucrats and Boards of Directors drawn from the Business and Social ponds have no idea what it tajes to get the curtain up. Think laterally

  5. Angela Giblin says:

    Thanks for your comment on this, Mr Lebrecht. To me these policies appear to be the thin edge of the wedge, involving such a major loss of skill at the ground level, that I fear Opera Australia would have ceased ultimately to make a contribution to Australian culture (thus justifying jokes about “the smallest book in the world).

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