Another summer festival bites the dust

Another summer festival bites the dust


norman lebrecht

March 19, 2020

London’s Opera Holland Park tonight called off its summer:

As a consequence of the UK government’s advice relating to the Covid-19 outbreak, Opera Holland Park is extremely sorry to inform you that the 2020 season scheduled to take place between June and August in our theatre in Holland Park will now not take place….

Crucially, we also have concerns for the performers, creatives, musicians and all who contribute to our productions, including all disciplines on and off stage, who will now suffer as a consequence. We are acutely aware that they are in a precarious position as self-employed/freelance workers and the Covid-19 crisis has already had very serious ramifications for all of them. We believe it is imperative that we try to assist them as best we can by agreeing to pay a portion of their fees for the season. We feel obliged to do what we can and not force those, who make us what we are, to take all of the pain. We would urge all those who have the ability to do so to make whatever gesture they can to help us meet this obligation. We will offer the option to turn your ticket purchases into donations and if you agree we would be extremely grateful for your generosity.


  • dcf1975 says:

    Buxton Festival has also had to close for the summer…

  • Tim says:

    That is class from James Clutton. And good for him for mentioning everyone, including the City of London Sinfonia.

    • Esther Cavett says:

      OMG, that’s 3 months away and they’re cancelling

      • Robert King says:

        Sadly that’s because opera requires such a lot of lead time – i.e. costume making, set building, let alone the many weeks of stage rehearsals etc – which for performances starting in June would be going into full steam now.

        But wonderful that James Clutton is making it so clear that (as I and others have commented elsewhere on this site) the musical and wider Arts world works by engaging people who are in the vast majority of cases totally self-employed. They are engaged by such companies as Opera Holland Park on a freelance basis, whether that’s as a singer (not just the handful of soloists, but the many more chorus too), all those usually unnoticed but formidably talented backstage crew (stage managers, wigmasters, dressers, costumiers, lighting tecchies, carpenters, riggers etc) and all those equally vital front of house staff (ushers, ticket tearers, bar staff, programme sellers, cleaners etc), not to mention the orchestra (for whom, just as with all these people above, such a summer season is often their sole employment for several months). It’s dreadful for every one of these people.

        Pay in the Arts, as we all know, is by and large very low, so these wonderful, creative people exist on small, often irregular, earnings, and have nothing financially on which to fall back. To make it more painful, as yet in the UK there seems to be little mention of government support for these hundreds of thousands of non-contracted, freelance people in terms of actual support packages (see what is happening for the Arts in France, Germany etc – the UK is some way behind). Meanwhile, everything that everyone in any position to do anything for even one of these people will be hugely appreciated.

        • Michael Volpe says:

          It was a decision we had to make early (given government statements) and which in our case is further complicated by the fact that we have an 8 week build that costs a lot of money too.
          Michael Volpe
          General Director

  • Fridolf says:

    Dear Norman,

    We have not met, but I am the manager of a major American orchestra and a daily reader of your site for many years.

    This is the moment when leaders in our field must step up to save this art form.

    Because of SlippeDisc’s market position, you have the opportunity to be be a galvanizing leader at this of great suffering and peril. Perhaps you have not yet experienced loss from COVID; I hope you never do.

    My musicians have. My staff has. My audience has. Their suffering is current and acute.

    We all—artists, managers, and boards—are learning to repurpose our skills that were relevant thee weeks ago into something that today will save lives, save jobs, and save the art form. Isn’t that the most important story today? The ingenuity and resilience of this field in the face of existential threat could win you a Pulitzer.

    I beseech you to take up your civil duty and make this site a place of truth, vision, and community healing.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Thank you for this comment. We are as much on the frontline as you are. We know several people who are affected and a few who have died. We do our best to tell the truth and maintain restraint.

  • Una says:

    Doubt if the enormous Proms programme will survive either. London is where half the cases and deaths have been as well. The whole thing is awful.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      It might get cancelled, or start late, or lose its visiting orchestras. It depends on the next month or so, and how the crisis pans out.