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Royal Opera chorus joins campaign against ENO cuts

ENO chorus members. Photo: Stephano Cagnoni.
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Performers at the Royal Opera have condemned planned cuts to English National Opera’s chorus, warning the move would be “irreversible” and threaten the “very essence” of the company.

In a letter to ENO bosses, chorus members at the fellow London company denounced the “extreme” plans that could result in a 25% salary reduction for ENO singers.

It is proposed that the ENO ensemble would only be permanent between the months of September and May, which is reflected in the pay cut.

Four chorus members would also be made redundant as part of the plans.

“A permanent chorus is the backbone of any opera house, the most versatile commodity available to it,” the letter says.

“You may deduce from our response that we have interpreted your cutbacks as an intention to eventually do without a full-time chorus altogether,” it adds, describing moving to a roster of freelance singers as “financially unviable” and “impossible to budget for in the long term”.

Last week, ENO’s 44-strong chorus threatened strike action over the proposals, which come amid a period of financial instability for the opera company.

The letter, published by The Guardian, continues: “Once these extreme measures are put in place, they will be irreversible. Years of training and experience lost. Performances are the raison d’etre of any opera company; therefore it follows that the performers should be the last port of call for cuts.”

It states: ”You have an opportunity to make your company once again the greatest in the world for opera performed in English. Don’t disable the very essence of what makes that possible. Don’t expect to fill your auditorium if you present your visitors with a part-time, inexperienced company.”

Plans for industrial action were revealed last week by performers’ union Equity, which called for the full chorus to be maintained.

Fellow trade bodies BECTU and the Musicians’ Union have joined Equity in planning a joint crisis meeting to try and resolve the issue.

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