Italian maestro calls Rome Opera sackings ‘shameful’

The great violinist Salvatore Accardo, returning home from a tour of China, discovered to his horror that Rome Opera had sacked its orchestra and chorus.

He said today:

‘What has happened in Rome – the dismissal of 182 musicians in the most prestigious theater of our capital city – is a shameful thing, not only for the infamous decision to abolish an orchestra, but also because it falsely justifies an indecent act. They want ​​the public to believe that the only ones responsible for years of mismanagement and holes in the budget are the musicians of the orchestra. Crazy.’

He added:

‘People abroad are horrified, and I emphasize, horrified at the story of the Opera di Roma. The heads of the Opera have said that these procedures – ‘outsourcing’ the orchestra – are done everywhere. But that’s not true. In Germany, Switzerland, France, the United States no one comes to mind who has dismissed the orchestra and relied on ad hoc orchestras.’



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  • This is a very important and mostly accurate statement by Mr. Accardo. The international community is appalled and completely baffled. There is one small error in his statement. Many American opera companies do indeed use “ad hoc” musicians, i.e. musicians hired on temporary, one-time contracts. And all of our houses except the Met only offer musicians part time jobs. After the Met, the seasons in Chicago and San Francisco are only six months or less. San Francisco literally plans its season just long enough to allow the musicians to qualify for unemployment benefits.

    Houston and Seattle offer about 3 or 4 month seasons. Santa Fe only 2 months. The cities of Washington and Philadelphia have about 40 performances a year — about the equivalent of a 2 month season. Italian leaders like Berlusconi have been strongly influenced by the American arts funding model. In some respects, the problems in Rome are the spread of an American poison.

      • LA has about 40 performances per year, just like Washington and Philly. A city like Munich, where you seem to live, with both the Staatsoper and Gaertnerplatz easily has that many performances most months — or at least in six weeks during a quiet period.

          • LA is sixth in the USA for opera performances per year, but given the country’s low standards, that puts the city 180th in the world. And yet with the 3rd largest metro GDP in the world. Lots of money, but it ain’t going for classical music. Hollywood is a kind of cartel that sits on the American brain like a huge blood leach.

        • The only reason Santa Fe isn’t called a festival is because its two month season qualifies it as a major American house.

          The difference might be its world class quality. So many of the best American orchestras only have 9 month seasons or less. This allows Santa Fe to hire some of the best orchestra musicians in the country during their off season. It is the orchestra at Santa Fe that truly stands out.

          The company has a $20 million budget for about 37 performances which comes to $540,000 a show. The production standards are thus relatively high. Most big European houses run many more performances of their productions, so they can have higher production standards for about the same price per performance, but Santa Fe’s production values are still very good. (I don’t know enough about Glyndenbourne to compare the two companies.)

    • Re “small error”: it isn’t claimed that there aren’t American opera companies that use ad hoc orchestras. It says about American (and other) opera companies: “no one comes to mind who has dismissed the orchestra and relied on ad hoc orchestras.”

      I can’t think of any American opera company that has done this. I searched for a few possibilities, but didn’t find one. Am I missing one?

      • Sorry, my error. I should have noted that many American companies have always used ad hoc orchestras so there has not been a need to fire them and reform as pick up orchestras. Most have always functioned that way, which seems to be the model Rome wants to follow.

        On the other hand, similar dismissals have been used for American symphonic orchestras. The New Mexico Symphony, which offered members low paying but regular contracts, declared bankruptcy a few years ago. The orchestra reformed as the NM Philharmonic where the players are paid solely by the service — and without any guarantee for how many services they might be offered. One of my friends plays viola in the orchestra. After 40 years of service she is now making $3000 per year, a fraction of her previous salary.

        Bankruptcy has become a frequently used method used to alter musicians’ contracts. Perhaps Philly is the most notable example. After San Diego folded the musicians were later rehired at about 25% of their previous salaries. After a decade or so they once again reached their previous levels, though I’m not certain of the exact details.

        I am not well informed, but I think Atlanta is trying to dismiss about half the orchestra and fill out the ensemble with free-lancers and students from an orchestra academy that it plan to found.

        Miami bankrupted its orchestra and contracted the Cleveland Orchestra for a regular guest series. Cleveland essentially became and ad hoc and scab orchestra for the city. Many more examples could be mentioned.

        I’m sorry to see this American poison spreading to some European countries like Italy and Holland. One of the major problems is that neo-liberal economic concepts were written by a financial elite into the Maastricht treaty without any mandate from the European populace. (Maastricht was the treaty that defined the EU’s unified economic policies.)

        • This week the unions have met the Rome’s mayor and they will meet again next week. The management has decided to cancel Aida and start the season with Rusalka by Dvorak. This seems to be a good idea to have an empty venue. Rusalka is a wonderful opera, more or less unknown for the Italian audience. They have lost their mind and receiving kick from all the world.

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