Ailing ENO raises estimates of jobs it needs to cut to 100

By Louise Jury Arts Correspondent
Wednesday 12 March 2003 01:00

The English National Opera will cut more jobs than previously thought under a plan to restore profitability.

The "strategy for change", announced yesterday, calls for 100 redundancies out of a performing, technical and administrative staff of 500, compared with initial estimates of 70 job losses, including a third of the 60 choristers. There would also be a reduction in the number of performances every year, down from 175 to a maximum of 150.

The strategy still has to be agreed with the Arts Council, which is being asked to fund it. The plan is likely to rouse fears among fans that the ENO will eventually become "part-time". It will also heighten tensions at the company in the wake of a strike by the chorus members.

But Martin Smith, the chairman, insists that "no change is not an option" for the ENO, which is based in London. At his first public press conference last month, after nearly two years in charge, he announced that the ENO would have been declared bankrupt if the Arts Council had not stepped in with emergency funding. The deficit would have reached £4m by next spring.

Previous managers and staff dispute the figures, saying that putting performers on casual contracts may increase flexibility but will prove more expensive in the long run.

The management insists the range of productions on offer will not be affected by the proposed cuts. "Patrons will continue to be offered the full range of the operatic canon, including large-scale, popular, less known and new work."

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