Arts: Rumblings of discontent on the Factory floor

David Freeman (right) on the Arts Council's decision to cut the company's grant: "One of its justifications is that, when Opera Factory started, it was the only company of its sort, whereas now there are lots of little companies. That's an alibi. The reasons I set up Opera Factory still apply. There's no other company, with the exception of City of Birmingham Touring Opera, which has consistently made an impact on audiences. The little companies are mostly so small that the Arts Council can give them a little money, and be seen to be furthering the cause of new opera. I'm not decrying the work of those companies, but to pretend that that relates to what Opera Factory managed on minuscule amounts of subsidy is, frankly, insulting."

Paul Daniel, Music Director of English National Opera, held the same post with Opera Factory from 1982 to 1989: "I first worked with David on Orfeo at the Coliseum in 1981, and we were already planning the first Opera Factory season. That was a kick-start to my career; I might have ended up being a repetiteur in Germany. David taught me to get behind the reason a piece is written, behind the reason a company puts a work on in the first place, learning to question why the writer ever put a mark on the paper in the first place. Another valuable lesson was David's method of preparation with the whole ensemble - singers, director, conductor, stage manager, designer - playing games, doing physical exercises together. Things which, in the Western theatre, have become something to scoff at. Things like that, the internals of putting on opera, are with me all the time. I don't think I'd have learnt them without Opera Factory."

The soprano Janis Kelly was a regular with the company through the 1980s:

"I saw the company's Punch and Judy in 1982, which gave me a headache for two days, but I was very impressed with the commitment and intensity of the performance, and was intrigued that there might be a space in the singer's brain that could take on more thought. I have to say it's not necessarily always a good thing for young singers. We went on journeys into uncharted waters, and you needed experience and a leap of faith. It wasn't always easy, there was a lot of improvisation - digging into people's psyches - that involved emotional pain, but if you don't take risks, you don't learn anything. I learnt a lot, and I'm very grateful."

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