Opera seria with a cost of thousands

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The Independent Online
A PARIS court yesterday ordered the Opera Bastille to pay its musical director 50,000 francs ( pounds 6,000) a day while the opera management continues to lock him out of rehearsals.

Last month the management of the five-year-old Opera said the South Korean- born musical director, Myung Wung Chung, 41, was leaving. Mr Chung, who has a contract until 2000, sued for wrongful dismissal and a labour court ruled on Monday that the Opera should let him to return to work.

The following day, however, Jean-Paul Cluzel, the Opera's general director, personally stopped Mr Chung from entering the building to take rehearsals for Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, which is due to open the autumn season. Mr Cluzel justified his behaviour by arguing that the Opera was appealing against Mr Chung's reinstatement.

Francoise Ramoff, the judge, however, ruled that even with an appeal pending, any court decision should have been applied immediately. She nevertheless refused Mr Chung permission to take rehearsals outside the Opera premises. Some musicians in the Opera orchestra have said the management's behaviour might provoke a strike.

Mr Chung's contract, giving him 3.58m francs in an average year, allowed him to set the repertoire and choose artists.

The management tried to reduce his salary and bring him under the control of the next overall director, Hugues Gall, who is due to take the Opera over next August. Mr Chung insisted that his original contract, negotiated under the previous Socialist government, should be respected.