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EDITIONS
 Friday, 17 January, 2003, 15:27 GMT
Opera singers condemn bosses
English National Opera
The ENO wants to cut the chorus from 60 to 40
English National Opera chorus singers have passed a vote of no confidence in their bosses after they planned controversial cuts in their numbers.

The vote came after staff, based at the Coliseum in central London, were told a business plan being put to the Arts Council of England suggested the company's chorus be cut from 60 to 40.

ENO's A Masked Ball
ENO's recently staged A Masked Ball to acclaim
Martin Brown, a spokesman for union Equity, told BBC News Online: "We told them the ENO's plans and they were absolutely flabbergasted and astonished."

The business plan has been prepared ahead of the restoration of the opera's base in the summer.

Consultation

Mr Brown said the singers had also passed a resolution saying there was no need for the company to institute cuts.

An ENO spokeswoman said the company was still in consultation with its staff about possible job cuts.

An ENO spokeswoman said: "Changes to the company are outlined in the strategy document. We hope to have that back at the end of January."

Mr Brown said: "The singers believed they had done what was required of them to make the savings that were needed.

"There's obviously a concern for their individual futures and there is a worry that they may be put in a position where they have to audition for their own jobs which is a particularly cruel process."

Productions

Mr Brown said the cuts may make it difficult for the opera to mount traditional productions.

Nicholas Payne
General director Nicholas Payne had to stand down last year
Three operas are currently planned for the opera's season before they close fro the summer, and Brown says all three will already require extra singers.

The three operas - Khovanshchina, The Capture Of Troy and The Trojans At Carthage - will require a chorus of 80 singers.

The ENO spokeswoman said: "We are undergoing a period of due terms of consultation, which is what any company should do or would do in these circumstances."

She said the business plan was to help plan for the company's future after 2004, and changes were bound to come from it.

Reports

The opera, which has struggled with low audience turnouts in the 2001-20002 season after September 11, receives 13.9m in funding from the Arts Council.

Last year there were reports that the opera would have to go part time or lay off its orchestra because of financial difficulties.

In early July Nicholas Payne, ENO's general director, stepped down after criticism of the company's unconventional opera presentations.

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