Soprano sounds off about 'disrespectful' Briton in charge of Opera Australia

There is more drama off-stage than on at Opera Australia as a serious rift is developing between the company's star singer and its British musical director.

The mezzo-soprano Fiona Janes has accused the company of sliding into "an abyss of mediocrity" as musical, vocal and artistic standards fall.

Adding an additional note of tension is the fact that there is a Briton at the centre of the row.

In a leaked email, she blamed Richard Hickox, the musical director who joined Opera Australia in 2005, for the company's decline. In the email, she alleged that under his directorship, the company has hired "second- and third-rate singers" from overseas, placed younger singers in roles that are too big for them and neglected older artists over 40, especially women.

Janes also accused Mr Hickox, who created the City of London Sinfonia, of being away too much and of showing disrespect to established local singers.

"As our national company we should all be proud of Opera Australia, however, as it stands now, not many people are," she wrote in the email, which was obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald. "Let's not destroy it for generations to come, allowing it to fall into an abyss of mediocrity."

Janes's views do not appear to be shared by the board, which is due to meet next week. The company's chief executive, Adrian Collette, said: "Certain allegations have been made and the board expressed complete confidence in the music director and the management of the company."

The appointment of Mr Hickox, who is due to return to Sydney next week, was not without its controversy. When the internationally acclaimed Australian conductor Simone Young was not reappointed when her contract expired in 2002, her fans were infuriated. Opera Australia's view was that her artistic vision was unaffordable.

Mr Hickox, who is regarded as one of Britain's most gifted and versatile conductors, was not able to take up his appointment until 2005, but then he attempted to placate those who claimed the company's artistic integrity was being compromised by Young's departure. In a radio interview he said: "With my ... work internationally, I don't think that you could possibly say I don't have my standards." Asked how he would juggle economics with artistic integrity, he explained: "We have to balance doing really exciting new work with a standard repertoire, but whatever we do, we have to do it absolutely excellently."

Janes has decided to wait for the outcome of next week's board meeting before making any further comment but the publication of her email could not have come at a worse time. Opera Australia's latest production of Handel's opera Orlando opens at the Sydney Opera House on Monday. The next day the company will herald its 2009 season at a reception for artists and the media. The party promises to have all the melodrama of classic opera, only this time the leading players will not be on stage.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Designer

£32969 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Engineer

£35000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Data Engineer is required to ...

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence