Opera forced to go part-time

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The Independent Online
Scotland's national opera company yesterday announced plans to appeal to the Government to bail it out of a cash crisis which is forcing it to go part-time.

Faced with a gap in its budget of pounds 750,000, Scottish Opera said the decision to become a part-time company - as well as introducing flexible contracts and pay cuts - was a long-stop option and the lesser of two evils. Its chairman, Sandy Orr, said that the board rejected unanimously the option of disbanding its own orchestra as a way of saving money.

This alone would not solve the company's financial problems and was unacceptable on artistic grounds. He appealed to Michael Forsyth, Secretary of State for Scotland and "a man recognised for his belief in Scottish excellence", to secure the future of Scottish Opera.

The suggestion of disbanding the orchestra came from a Scottish Arts Council working party in a report published yesterday. It involved the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra providing musicians for Scottish Opera. But Mr Orr emphasised that the opera company was a national one and had to perform at a certain level of quality. "I think we can be proud of what we do in that regard. Without the control of the core of orchestral quality I think this company would be set on a downward path."

However, he could not pretend the part-time option did not set the company on that path. But he insisted that it was "a choice between two evils". The only way to achieve the savings necessary to balance the books was to put everybody on to flexible contracts and to operate the company for nine months of the year.