Royal Opera cancels auditions, leaves musicians stranded

Royal Opera cancels auditions, leaves musicians stranded


norman lebrecht

November 13, 2015

As we reported yesterday, the Royal Opera in Copenhagen has announced savage cuts to help meet the cost of maintaining a swanky new building.

One immediate consequence: it has summarily cancelled auditions for orchestra vacancies. An American friend, who spent an unrecoverable $3,500 on flights and hotels, received the following brutal letter from Copenhagen:

Kære cellokonkurrence deltager. På baggrund af Kulturministeriets sparekrav til Det Kongelige Teater, som desværre også rammer Det Kongelige Kapel med en nedskæring på 7 mill. dkr, ser vi os med beklagelse nødsaget til, at aflyse den planlagte konkurrence om stillingen som solocellist. Vi beklager det besvær det må give, og håber på forståelse for en situation, som det ikke var muligt at forudse.

Med venlig hilsen,

Sven Müller, Operachef Det Kongelige Teater og Kapel

Dear cello contestant. Based on the Ministry of Cultures reduction of grants to the Royal Theatre, which unfortunately also affects the Royal Chapel with a reduction of 7 million dkr., we see ourselves reluctantly compelled to cancel the planned competition for the position as Principal Cellist. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you, and hope for your understanding for a situation that we couldn’t predict.


Sven Müller, Artistic Director,  Royal Danish Opera.


Shocking? Disgraceful? Unprofessional? The least the Danes can do is refund the expenses of musicians who have been caught out by their peremptory cancellation.

Meantime, be warned: If you’re booked in Denmark, get your expenses paid in advance.



  • Nicolaj says:

    And what exactly are they supposed to do? They are also forced to fire 14 members of the orchestra. A cancelled audition is nothing in that light.

  • J says:

    Yes, that’s the solution. An orchestra who got a budget cut so big it made them cancel and audition probably has the money to refund everyone. It really sucks, I understand how one would get extremely disappointed. But then again, I would have booked one of them refundable/rebookable tickets in this situation. It’s a big and risky investment to go so far away for an audition, and there’s a hundred things that can get in the way.

  • Jon H says:

    Probably not the kind of organization you’d want to join anyway…

    • Nicolaj says:

      You need to understand that these budget cuts are not coming from the opera. They are coming from the Danish government, who funds the opera.

  • Jens-Christian Wandt, operasinger & leader of the World Ballet Denmark says:

    Our opera is in deep crisis. In free fall to the bottom. They save bugettet, but it’s also about incredibly bad and unstructured management who do not know much about art.

  • Marie says:

    Well… I fully appreciate the frustration. But I still find this blog post a bit harsh! Of course it would be nice if they would at least do something to help cover the cost and inconvenience of musicians having travelled all this way. But disgraceful and unprofessional? I don’t know. These are really tough times. We have been very spoilt in Denmark for many years when it comes to cultural funding and for many years it has been really attractive for musicians from abroad to live and work here. Those days might be over. That is sad enough as it is.

  • Alexander Øllgaard says:

    As chairman of the musicians of The Royal Danish Orchestra I deeply regret the inconvenience our applicants for the position as 1. solocello had to suffer. Our orchestra is going through a tough time and cancellation of the audition was the only option at the moment. I know that the management is working on reimbursement of the expenses of the applicants and we hope to be able to invite everybody back for a new audition date in the near future.

    Sincerely, Alexander Øllgaard, chairman of the musicians of the Royal Danish Orchestra.

    • Nick says:

      Why hasn’t anyone from the administration been in touch with musicians regarding this matter?

      Personally- I found out on Thurs and left for Europe on Friday. There was no time to cancel the trip or apartment I rented. I replied to Jens immediately and have not heard anything. I felt like the email sent to us was very short and not very sweet.

      I’m deeply sorry for the financial situation for your orchestra. I’ve seen the cuts with American orchestras for years and I had decided to take an audition for the first time in Europe because I felt things might be more financially stable. I also had a friend in this orchestra that said it was a wonderful experience at the time.

      I don’t know if other Americans have traveled over, but it was extremely disappointing to find out the day before I left. Also, it takes a big financial hit when a cellist buys a seat for himself and an additional seat for the cello to fly.

      If you see a cellist on the streets playing Bach, it might be me busking to make a little money back… HA

  • Brian Walsh says:

    They all seem to want to copy Cameron & Osbourne. Give money to their friends and to hell with the poor and the arts.