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.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Twelve of the winning bidders will each host three group matches
football
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

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

Primary Supply Teacher - Loughborough

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Teacher looking fo...

Primary General Cover Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Newly Qualified Teacher lo...

Part Time Primary Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Part Time Primary TeacherOur...

Science Technician

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:School Science Technici...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week