Monday, January 02, 2012

Support for the Royal Theatre

This post is simply to document the voices of support for the Royal Danish Theatre since massive budget cuts and layoffs were announced just before christmas.

If you would like to voice your support, anything is appreciated greatly! Please email me at or leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Thank you :)

William Spaulding. 1. Chordirektor - Deutsche Oper Berlin
To the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Danish Government who favor drastic budget cuts for the Royal Danish Theatre at Copenhagen:

Culture is not optional; it is not a luxury. It is a necessity of life. Like our bodies, our minds and souls need nourishment.

Imagine the general effect on our health if all the salads, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other healthful foods disappeared from the supermarkets. You'd be left with nothing but junk food. Want to raise your kids on that? Reduce that which is beneficial and wholesome, and there remains only that which is harmful.

It is the same with consumption on the spiritual and mental level: take away what is good, and you are left with what is bad. The great works of musical theater were created because there was a need for them. They survive today for the same reason.

Many argue that a lavishly funded opera house has no use. But what is use? Any ape can take a rock and crack open a nutshell to eat what's inside; that's useful. Any dog can bark to get his meal; fish have gills instead of lungs to survive under water; and the modern man turns on his computer to read the news or tell his friends what he's having for breakfast.

All of this is useful. But we must not confuse usefulness with meaning. Meaning and significance are what we are after in life. We need it. It is healthy. We thrive on it. Without it, we have only junk food.

An opera is not a fat lady screaming some wobbly gibberish that nobody understands. It is history, literature, visual art, acting, dance, theater, singing and instrumental artistry rolled into one. It teaches our young about good and bad. It grapples with questions of contemporary life.

Concerned about the economy? A singer in the opera chorus goes to your restaurants, brings her friends and relatives to leave money at your hotels, drives your cars, and buys your iPhones. She pays her rent reliably, providing you with steady income. Or she buys a house and pays interest to you for the next thirty years.

Her children are not criminals and drug addicts, but they buy your books and go to your movies. Brought up in a house full of culture, they might even become successful businessmen and politicians, like you.

Take my country, the US. Impressed with the level of public discourse in a modern American presidential election? Well, that’s what you get when you cut arts funding, entertain people with stupid TV, and classify ketchup as a vegetable in school lunches. In New York, Chicago, and San Fransisco, they have opera houses, and people were against the Iraq war.

I live in Berlin. Berlin, as you know, used to be not one city, but two. So when the Berlin Wall fell, there were two complete sets of cultural institutions. It was the operas, orchestras, theatres, picture-galleries, museums, and libraries of, say, Vienna and Brussels, all in the same place!

Some people said, "What a waste of money! We don't NEED so much culture!" And much damage was done. But in time, the business and political community came to realize that even from a purely practical standpoint, maintaining the cultural landscape made financial sense.

In Berlin, 57% of all culture is consumed by tourists! That's money for the airline companies, money for the taxi drivers. Money spent on buses and subways. Tourists are having a good time. People having a good time are in a good mood. They give the waiter a bigger tip; they get tired from sightseeing and ride two blocks to their hotel by taxi. And part of every single transaction ends up as tax revenue in your government treasury.

Look at the numbers of the opera choruses in other capitals: Barcelona 72, Berlin 84, Vienna 80, Milan 104. My chorus of the Deutsche Oper Berlin had 120 members in 1989.

I have conducted opera choruses in 7 different countries. Your opera chorus is one of the finest I have ever known. Do you really want to throw that away? Throwing it away is what you are doing when you cut an opera chorus to 40 members. The present level of 56 is too low for the work that I had the pleasure of performing at Det Kongelige Teater, Puccini’s Turandot. I have performed the same opera in Berlin, Barcelona, and Mannheim, each time with about 100 singers. Your chorus needs to be augmented, not diminished.

Cutting culture is tremendously destructive. What we need in life is not destruction, but creativity. And we need more of it, not less.

So let us not evaluate things solely on the basis of their usefulness. Let us keep meaning in our lives, and enhance it, and at the same time give people a reason to come to Copenhagen, and spend their money in your beautiful city.

Sincerely yours,

William Spaulding

People waiting in line to get in to our protest-concert this saturday. Hundreds came in vain.

Erwin Schrott & Anna Netrebko

In this global difficult situation, hardship hits everyone. Some of us are more affected, other less, but we all have to face financial restrictions, as individuals and as nations. Cutting funds to culture, though, is not the best way to deal with the problem. Culture, including music, and, of course, opera, is one of the few things that keep a community together in hard times, it’s a way to remember one’s own roots and to hold on to hope for the future.
Opera isn’t just entertainment, opera is part of the European culture and we need to preserve it, passing it on to future generations. Copenhagen Opera have done their best so far to transmit to audiences their love for culture, for music, and have done so wonderfully. What we need to do, now, is to make sure they can continue doing so.
The financial situation is hard, but we need to stand together, close to the opera chorus. Eighteen people of the chorus, twenty technicians and twelve among the administrative staff have already lost their jobs and the opera will have to do without one title in its programme every year due to government cuts. A benefit concert, therefore, is not just to show our support to those people and their colleagues, but also to raise funds to try and save at least a few of those jobs.
This crisis wasn’t caused by us — artists, technicians, staff of opera houses are normal people just like people in the audience, just genuine and enthusiastic music lovers, and unfortunately also victims of the collapse of global markets. But, as John Donne wrote, «No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main»: we’re in this together, we will come out of this together, hopefully soon. But for the moment all we can do is stand together, helping each other, and work to try and improve things, one step after another, having culture as our only weapon and each other as our only allies.

Alexander Polyanitchko, Conductor - Mariinsky Theatre
 It is extremely painful for me to discover that financial problems have led to the need for The Royal Danish Opera to make cuts in its artistic team. This is particularly painful, since I have on many occasions had the chance to work with the company at The Royal Danish Opera, and have always been extremely impressed by the professional skill of the singers, guest artists, chorus, orchestra musicians and stage director's team - I am proud of what we produced and the resulting performances of operas by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Janacek.

It is highly regrettable that it is the artists who have to pay for someone else's mistakes. I have to ask whether it is the financial crisis that forces us to consider the need for cuts, or whether this comes from a political decision based on quite different things? I worry about that question as the former principal conductor of one of the oldest chamber orchestras in England, the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, which was disbanded in 1999 purely on political grounds.

It takes many years, an enormous expense and the effort of hundreds of people to gain a high reputation and create a team like the one at The Royal Danish Opera, but unfortunately it is too easy to destroy it. Please do not forget this and make every possible effort to save it.


Alexander Polyanichko

Poul Ruders, Composer

The whole sorry mess can be boiled down to one thing: national pride – or more precise: lack of same. Sadly enough.
Sadly because it´s the same old story; in times of financial trouble, what´s first in the line of fire? The Arts. Again and again – it´s nothing new, because it´s so easy to say “…who needs it, when unemployment is rampant, hospitals suffer huge cut-backs, general well-fare is going down the tubes, etc.etc.”
Even more sadly, bearing in mind, that The Royal Danish Theatre - unique in its capacity of juggling under the same umbrella the four major performing Arts, opera, ballet, plays and symphony concerts - possesses such huge potential and talent for all and sundry to enjoy - and for the world to respect. Not only our world, but the world beyond our national boarders.
The Royal Theatre is so close to becoming a major player on the international stage. Our National Ballet has been world famous for decades, admired and talked about, the Opera is not far behind, with a world class ensemble of soloists , a superb orchestra and chorus in daring productions attracting visitors from far away and with ecstatic reviews in the international press.
THAT we can be proud of.
It´s so close. It´s all there, right under our noses, but now – apparently – it´s also close to being whittled down to “back-water” status.
And THAT we cannot be proud of.
Poul Ruders

Michael Boder, Dirigent und Director Musical del Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona.

Die „Kongelige Danske Opera“ wurde in den letzten 10 Jahren, auch durch den wunderbaren Neubau, zum bedeutendsten Opernhaus Skandinaviens. Das künstlerische Niveau des Chores, des Orchesters und der Solisten hat sich in dieser Zeit enorm gesteigert und wird international bewundert. Dies wird durch die angekündigten Sparmaßnahmen massiv und nachhaltig gefährdet.

Ein Opernhaus dieser Bedeutung ist kein Industriebetrieb, der Dinge herstellt, die man mal braucht, mal nicht. Es ist ein Organismus aus hochqualifizierten Musikern, die uns Allen etwas sehr Bedeutendes erzählen : Die Geschichte unserer Kultur und Gesellschaft.
Einen solchen Organismus zu zerstören geht rasch, ihn aufzubauen dauert sehr lange.

Wenn eine Privatperson sparen muss, wird sie doch nicht als erstes ihre Bibliothek versetzen ! Genauso darf eine Gesellschaft nicht ihre Kultur opfern – es sei denn, man will auf die eigene Identität verzichten...... Und das wäre ein kaum wieder gut zu machender Schaden auf lange Sicht.

Sparen heißt doch : genauer und schlanker werden. Und nicht einfach den Baum absägen, auf dessen Ästen wir letztendlich alle sitzen.

Ich protestiere ausdrücklich gegen die Dezimierung des großartigen Opernchores.

Michael Boder

Graeme Jenkins, Conductor
Graeme Jenkins, Conductor

Any cuts in the Opera Chorus would be a disaster for a House of this standing. What is the point of having a great Opera House without Orchestra, Singers, Technical staff and a GREAT CHORUS.
You cannot do most of the major Italian repertoire without a standard chorus of 56.
Even in Traviata the mens chorus is divided into 4 parts.
Celebrate the two houses in Copenhagen, market them MORE and bring in the tourists (as they do in Vienna) and keep Opera IMPORTANT to the culture of this wonderful city.
Graeme Jenkins

Giancarlo Andretta, Principal Conductor at the Gothenburg Opera House & Chief Conductor of the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra

To whom it may concern,

Several years I have had the honour and the joy to collaborate with the Royal Opera House of Copenhagen. An Opera House of such the highest recognized international reputation cannot suffer that its incredible artistic profile, power and professionality gets diminished. I want with all my hearth and knowledge and experience to shout SAFE ALL THE ARTISTS OF YOUR WONDERFUL OPERA! Danemark has been for me Italian these years through an example for really a lot. A lot I have learned from You as artist and a lot as human been and more times I have shown You in Italy as an example to follow. Also Your attention to the true Culture and to the true Music can still remain to us European an example to follow.
To the member of the Royal Danish Opera House again I say from the hearth's depth thanks for so much You gave to us, thanks for so much you always gave to me.
We need all of You, the life needs all of You, the Culture and the Art needs all of You.

With respect. Sincerely Yours.
Giancarlo Andretta

Jeremy Bines, Chorus Master, Royal Danish Opera 2007-9.Chorus Master, Glyndebourne 2009-
(This pertains specifically to the chorus)

Dear Choristers of the Royal Danish Opera and other friends,

My heart has been bleeding since I heard the news of what they are planning to do to you, to the artistic life of Denmark, and to the world of opera. There's not much I can say that hasn't been articulated more neatly already, but the Royal Danish Opera simply won't survive without a full-time, full-sized chorus. By cutting the numbers of administrative jobs, and yes, reluctantly, production budgets, the company can soldier on; but getting rid of artists is suicide.

That is all.

Jeremy Bines

Michael Melbye, danish Stage Director and former opera singer. 
(This pertains specifically to the chorus)
To whom it may, nay...must concern,

Dear Keith and the rest of the group of directors of The Royal Danish Theatre,

My connection with the Royal Theatre's Chorus span more than 40 years. And so I feel that I know this group extremely well ( albeit be it with their changing members over this vast period.)

As a 16 year old singing student, I got my first input from professional singers being employed as a dresser for this colourful group. The four years until I became a soloist with the company, I absorbed a huge amount of knowledge and experience observing and learning from these people during the many productions I followed them in.

As a soloist I have performed literally hundreds of evenings with them, and always enjoyed the collaboration. It is difficult to explain they way one feel as a soloist, standing in front of the wave of glorious sound coming from a well singing chorus. This spanned over 25 years and have always been a complete pleasure to experience. Here however the line should not be drawn.... as an international singer, I have performed with the choruses from a vast number of the most prestigious opera houses all over the globe, and I can say with the cleanest of consciences, that the Royal Opera Chorus has never seemed of lesser quality then any of these other great choruses. On the contrary In fact, I was always very proud to be part of the The Royal Danish Opera who could muster such eminent singers in this extremely important part of our business.

To underline this I would like also like to remark, that my collaboration with this marvellous group of individual artists was deepened infinitely when 17 years ago started to direct them in my many productions at The Royal Danish Opera. As a singer/musician based director who have worked with many choruses all over the world, this specific group never seized to amaze me. And this not only with their wonderful sound, but certainly also with their outstanding ability to perform and act. Their enthusiasm never fails, and contrary to most other choruses I have worked with, they beg to be individually directed, and throw themselves at the job with great concentration. And this far beyond a hundred times a year!!!!

On a technical note I would like to state that the cropping this extremely well "sung-in" chorus, and then supplement them "ad hoc" would be a huge crime. I know this is being done at different opera houses in order to cut expenses, but always with great artistic loss as a consequence. One should never underestimate the effect of years of working together in a group, listening to one another and fine-tuning the different groups of voices to establish the most balanced sound. The more experienced teaching the younger. And taking into account that The Royal Danish Opera's main asset is it's romantic repertoire, which now has been given a fantastic platform in the shape of our New Opera, the number of choristers should not be diminished but rather (as the politicians promised back when the "gift" was a reality) enlarged. This to be able to populate this much larger stage, and honour the demand of volume and brilliance without straining the voices to their physical limit. The plan of performing smaller opera productions like Mozart, Donizetti and so on, on the Old Stage, where one might contemplate a slightly reduced chorus, seems to be abandoned all together, and thus we are left with the larger stage that certainly does not lend itself to reduced choruses.

On a human note one should, and must also consider that the alternative possibilities of work within the field of music in this country is extremely limited, and thus the planned reduction of the Royal Opera's Chorus will result in many highly (and expensively) educated musicians to be lost to music world.

I therefore cannot stress enough the need to reconsider this step, which according to me, will inflict irreparable damage the The Royal Danish Opera, and in deed to Danish music life as a whole.

Most sincerely,

Mikael Melbye

Henrik Thorngaard, Musikchef - Prinsens Musikkorps
Det er med stor beklagelse, jeg har erfaret, at Det Kongelige Teater skal reducere antallet af ansatte med 100 personer. Det er naturligvis katastrofalt for de mennesker, der nu kommer til at stå uden arbejde, men det er også katastrofalt for Det Kongelige Teater, der nu mister 100 dedikerede og velkvalificerede personer, som kommer til at mangle i de daglige produktioner.

Nedskæringerne kommer uden tvivl til at betyde et reduceret repertoire, og det er beklageligt. Det Kongelige Teater er et af fyrtårnene i det danske musik- og kulturliv, og Danmark bliver – på alle måder - fattigere, hvis vi ikke har råd til at formidle og præsentere musik og teater på højeste niveau.

Jeg vil derfor stærkt opfordre til, at det politiske Danmark – i samarbejde med ledelsen på Det Kongelige Teater – igen kigger på mulighederne for at bevare de 100 stillinger. Kunst og kultur koster penge, det ved alle, men det er også kunsten og kulturen, der, mere end noget andet, beriger os i vort menneskeliv. Den skal vi have råd til. Ellers bliver både Danmark – og menneskelivet – for fattigt!

Godt Nytår!

Tommi Hakala, Baritone - 2003 BBC Singer of the World, Cardiff

I'm shocked to read these news, which unfortunately are not surprising, but the amount and the size of the cuts is awful!!!

This is a short minded way of thinking, tearing down culture institutes, which have taken so much time, effort and good will to stand there, where it now is. 

To bring the quality of making theatre; drama, ballet and opera to the people, and not only for those, who are able to pay the tickets themselves, but also for everyman and -woman, who are able to reach the unique atmosphere of live act of the greatest drama's, music and movement, the highest theatre masterpieces of our western culture...

And now the danish government wants to risk this, the existence of it, the theatre for everyone - but also the job, the work of many people, to throw certainly many of them to the line of the social offices, to the unemployment and to force some of them to move out of Denmark after the daily living and salary - this is a start of the endless cuts and who is coming next: hospitals, education, pensioners... And when comes the politicians with their salaries, officials of state with their secured and linked positions and power???

Sad, sad, sad - and this all will be also a soon-coming-situation in Finland, since the budget of the Finnish National Opera shall be recounted und cut in the year 2013, as far as I know.

And this all because of the egoistic, opportunistic, eager and selfish financial-power-politics of the E.U., Brussels, Strasbourg; and also the international "Wall-Street", long ago away of the original location, located away of the open critics and controls in the hidden meetings - who have let the unqualified states and economies to keep running, like no responsibilities, no needs of taking care of tomorrow, no ethics or moral - sad, sad, sad!!!

I haven't ever understand, how the big-business-makers and states, especially their so-good-leaders are let to walk away with their debts unpaid, without forced to face the facts, that their acts have created - and the same time an individual persons, like myself, are making the best of ours, working as much as our capacities are flexible, to get our families a possibility to have this wonderful life in the Europe, home, education, healthsystem, nations, culture - how come!?!

I do hope this spin, the depression and the decadence of our western existence, which is facing the sunset of it's own, is still to be stopped and the direction of our future meets the concrete and realistic and honest possibilities, stopping that "the only way to make success is to lie and steal"-mentality, and the way of act and react shall find the other possibilities and values until now.

Tommi, Helsinki

Alan Green, Zemlinsky/Green management:
To whom it may concern,

I have just been informed about the projected drastic cuts in the budget for the Royal Theatre. As an artists' manager who is privileged to work with many famous international opera singers,
I have worked with the Royal Opera in Copenhagen. The new theatre is one of the most beautiful in Europe.  To think that the artistic quality of this great opera house should be compromised in such a way ,
is a terrible way to end 2011. I am not a Danish citizen, but art is international . Therefore let me add my voice here to those who will fight against these measures.

Sincerely yours,

Alan Green


Jesper L. S. Nordin said...

Voices of support can leave a comment here. Remember to leave your name and profession.

Alternatively you can email me at

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If you could magically create your dream conductor, but he/she could only posess one quality, he/she should preferably be...