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English National Opera Fires Artists During Performance

By Michael Vincent on February 19, 2024

In a moment that could have been scripted in a dystopian scene from “The Handmaid’s Tale”, the English National Opera (ENO) issued layoff notices to artists during the intermission of the opera’s final performance.

According to Slipped Disc, musicians and cast members were alerted to their impending job losses via email during the final performance break of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Equal parts shocked and horrified — many were unsure whether to leave mid-performance or carry on performing.

What happened?

The ENO has been experiencing serious financial difficulties, exacerbated by a significant cut in its annual grant. The decision was made by ENO management to deliver redundancy notifications via email but failed to consider that the artists would be performing.

Despite the shock, the ensemble’s commitment shone through as they completed the performance, earning acclaim from an unsuspecting audience.

Voices of Discontent

Reaction to the move has received widespread disapproval from the public.

Navigating Troubled Waters

Just before the layoffs, the musicians at the English National Opera voted to cancel their planned strike following a settlement with the management regarding the proposed reductions in staff.

The decision for the strike was due to the ENO’s announcement of its intention to reduce their employment to just six months per year and to eliminate 19 out of the 69 positions in the orchestra.

In that same period, the renowned opera company was compelled to move its headquarters from London after Arts Council England (ACE) revised its funding strategy. ACE threatened to withdraw its annual grant of £12 million unless the opera company relocated. Since then, the funding agency has started to reinstate financial support.

While considering cities such as Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, and Nottingham for its new location, ENO ultimately chose Manchester as its primary location starting in 2029.

Michael Vincent
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