Friday, December 30, 2011

Tough times ahead

Sad news. The Royal Danish Theatre - which includes two of my employers; the Opera and the Ballet - is facing yet another substantial budget cut over the next 4 years. This time it's in the area of 100 million danish kroner (13,5 million € or 16,5 million $).
An already struggling Royal Theatre now has no other option but to start laying off people, and the word is that a 100 people will be thrown in the volcanoe, divided between 60 members of administration and 'technical staff', 35 'artists' and 5 in the management.
This is a devastating blow to the house, and quite possibly the comparatively biggest staff cut in the history of the house.

Exactly who gets the boot is left to negotiations, and some people in administration now face the tough task of choosing who must go. Rumor is that the Chorus will take a huge reduction from 56 to 40 members and that the opera will loose a pianist (going from 5 to 4) but that the Royal Orchestra (120+ members) will not be touched.
What will happen to the ballet and theatre department I do not know, but for the numbers to match, I could easily imagine the Ballet loosing 8-9 dancers and a pianist, and the acting department loosing 8-9 members as well.
The technical staff has been under increased pressure with reductions and budget cuts in the last couple of years, and having to trim down an additional 60 is almost impossible to imagine.

Obviously, a reduction of productions will follow.
The Opera will be left with 8-9 productions a year, making all local bloated talk in the last decade about the house having 'international class' and being 'comparable to major opera houses all over Europe' seem completely absurd. On a sidenote, I wonder how the Opera's two newly appointed bosses feel. Keith Warner just started his first season as Artistic Director and Jakub Hrusa was just appointed Chief Conductor. I wonder if they had any idea what awaited them when they signed their contracts??

There is a definite sense of panic in the house at the moment, and who can blame them? The ballet dancers have volunteered a paycut while the actors apparently have demanded that the management take a massive cut, but everything is up in the air until at least the 16th of january.

Ironcally, this whole ordeal might benefit those that make a living from temporary employment (like myself), but that offers no consolation. The house face possibly it's hardest staff cut ever, and is truly in disarray. The artistic level will invariably suffer, as will the work environment and the incentive to hang around. 
It's already hard to attract the really top echelon of guest singers, conductors, directors, choreographers etc. to fringe cities like Copenhagen, and when they come they normally get paid insane mounts of money for fleeting visits. This practise will of course have to stop, and Copenhagen will slowly but surely return to being 100% 'provincial'. Having the likes of Domingo, Netrebko or Alagna visiting is surely a thing of the past?

If I try my hardest to find a positive angle in this misery, it is that some of the 'less gifted' members of staff might finally be weeded out. In the danish public sector, it's notoriously difficult to fire anyone with tenure, unless they show up drunk or punch their colleagues in the face, but now management can hesitate no longer

Despite all this, a happy New Year to all of you.

- Jesper


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