■ Hailed as the world’s largest performing arts venue under one roof, Taiwan’s new National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts, Weiwuying, was officially opened on October 13. Alongside a concert hall, playhouse, recital hall and outdoor theatre, the centre includes a 2,236-seat opera house musicians’ picket line outside the theatre.
The crisis followed a period of negotiations during which the company came to agreement with several of its unions but failed to find a compromise with members of its orchestra, represented by the Chicago Federation of Musicians. In a statement issued on October 11, the company criticized the players’ union for rejecting its proposals and admitted for the first time that its financial stability and long-term viability were in jeopardy. For its part, the union accused the management of seeking ‘radical cuts … that would decimate the orchestra and forever diminish the Lyric Opera of Chicago’.
Among other things the company was seeking to cut the orchestra by five players (by attrition), reduce the number of working weeks from 24 to 22 and to stop the radio broadcasts for which players have always been paid extra, but for which sponsorship has now dried up. The orchestra called Lyric’s offer ‘a bogus PR stunt’ and said that ‘if Lyric faces financial challenges it is not because of the orchestra’.
The backdrop to this is—as the Chicago Tribune pointed out—a season due to have featured 55 performances as opposed to the 85 to 90 of a decade ago, shrinking revenue (down from $90.5m in 2014 to $62.5m in 2017) and mushrooming expenses (up from $75.8m to $88.1m). The newspaper quoted the board’s chairman, David Ormesher, as saying, ‘Ten years ago, subscriber revenue was $20m. This year it’s $13m. That was our lifeblood ten years ago. These days, we have to make that up with single ticket sales, which are much more expensive to sell.’
Unexpectedly, then, the strike was called off on October 14, with the musicians having made some gains, including a modest pay increase in weekly salary as opposed to substantial cuts, and with four as opposed to five orchestral positions to be eliminated, with that reduction also being delayed until next season. While the number of opera season weeks is to be reduced from 24 to 22, guarantees are in place regarding the hiring of players for the Joffrey Ballet productions from 2020. Fire scare at La Fenice Nearly a quarter of a century since the theatre was completely devastated by fire, La Fenice suffered a blaze. The fire broke out in a technical room early on a Monday morning at the beginning of October, and the surveillance system installed when the theatre was rebuilt enabled it to be brought quickly under control. Its cause was said to be a malfunction in the theatre’s power backup system, and the performance schedule was only minimally disrupted. Sydney Opera House outrage A controversy broke out in Australia in early October when attempts were made to use the famous ‘sails’ of the Sydney Opera House as a projection screen for advertising a horse race. It was intensified when a right-wing shock jock on a local radio station, Alan Jones,
Opera, December 2018