Angry ENO Chorus Stages Strike Action on 25 FebDate: 19 February 2003
Choristers of English National Opera (ENO) have stepped up their protest against proposed redundancies that would reduce their 60-strong number by a third. Yesterday, they unanimously voted to stage a series of strikes to defend their jobs.
The first strike will take place next Tuesday 25 February. The choristers plan to walk out on ENO's scheduled performance of The Trojans - The Capture of Troy at the London Coliseum and, instead, walk next door to St Paul's church and stage a free concert presentation of Verdi's Requiem.
Disruptions to further performances will go ahead, say the chorus, if the management's redundancy plans are not amended. Backed by the chorus' union Equity, the main union for actors and performers, next week's event will mark Equity's first all-out industrial strike action since a television strike that occurred some 40 years ago and dragged on for several months.
The current chorus crisis at ENO kicked off last week when the management announced the lay-off plans. The outraged choristers met and passed a vote of no confidence in ENO management and, though present, refused to sing during parts of a publicly attended working rehearsal of Khovanshchina. However, circumstances at ENO have been steadily worsening since last summer.
Executive director Nicholas Payne resigned in early July 2002, after little more than a year in the job. Two weeks later, industry newspaper The Stage prompted further intense speculation when it reported that the company was considering a massive downsizing, to include shutting down for 16 months, making hundreds of staff redundancies and setting up as a part-time only company (See The Goss, 25 Jul 2002).
Major refurbishment, costing in the region of £41 million, has already begun on ENO's home, the London Coliseum, which will close in the second half of this year and will not reopen until at least the first quarter of 2004. The chorus had already agreed to having their numbers cut from 68 to 60 during the company's peripatetic period of transition, while members of the orchestra have been bracing themselves for cuts of their own.
Last month, the Arts Council pushed through a £4.1 million grant to bail out ENO, which has an estimated deficit of £1.2 million and rising (See News, 23 Jan 2003). The Council meets at the end of next week to consider ENO plans for stabilisation. Last, the beleaguered company appointed Perth festival's Sean Doran as its new artistic director, leading a new management structure in Covent Garden from April 2003 (See News, 13 Feb 2003).
- by Terri Paddock