Wednesday, 16 March 2011

OperaUpClose TOO close ?

OperaUpClose productions have been so successful that the company won an award at the Olivier Awards last weekend. Now a darker side to the story  has officially come into the open.  Read this report that's just surfaced on the BBC.  The company claims they told singers the jobs were voluntary so they would not get paid. This needs to be properly established as a matter of principle.

The company says  this proves why they need public funding. Yet any company, no matter how small, needs to operate on a sound business model. OperaUpClose productions are successful and seats sell well. So there's money there even if it isn't much. Even they admit they're a commercial success.

But any official body would be mad to fund a group that can't be transparent. If public funding goes to anyone, it should go to those who are professional in the way they run their business. There have been rumours for a while, but I don't do gossip. What Equity needs to do is gather the evidence and investigate. Not only La Boheme but other ventures. In these difficult times, singers are pressured into doing things for free, but their dedication isn't something that should be exploited. Singers are also put under pressure not to complain because they won't get the openings. It's a vicious cycle. As cuts hit further other companies might think they can get away with treating singers like fodder. If Equity slips up on this one, things will get worse.

"We've been able to get away with it," says OperaUpClose, because "we are lucky to have such great audiences." But that's not the point. Sure, companies have always exploited singers and actors, but it's still unethical. Public funding? No way.


benf said...

OperaUpClose were only able to pay their leading singers when they went to the Soho Theatre. At the Cock Tavern, as with all fringe ventures, it was on an amateur basis. This has only come to light because they won an Olivier, which they shouldn't have been eligible for because of their non-paid status. Fringe theatres would not exist if they had to pay their artists.

Doundou Tchil said...

Obviously fringe theatres don't pay full rates but there's much more to this story. It hasn't just "come to light" as of last weekend. Interesting you mention they were non eligible for the award. Many things don't add up. Public money is not the answer.

benf said...

Non-eligibility was an opinion rather than a fact. At the Soho Theatre, they might have been able to pay the singers the going rate but not at Kilburn. If it hadn't transferred, they wouldn't have been eligible because the Cock Tavern is not an affiliated venue. The amateur status of OperaUpClose, like any fringe company, shouldn't have allowed them to be considered for an Olivier.