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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 18:20 GMT
Choristers protest at opera cuts
English National Opera
The ENO has announced plans to cut the chorus
Choristers at English National Opera (ENO) have staged a musical protest against the company's plans to cut the chorus by a third.

The 60 members of the chorus may be cut down to 40 as part of a strategic business plan being put before the Arts Council.

The protest performance was held outside the offices where officials from the Arts Council met ENO chiefs on Tuesday.

As well as protesting, choristers wrote an open letter to Arts Council chief executive Peter Hewitt saying the cuts were unnecessary.

This could lead to a serious long-term decline in box office figures

Choristers' letter to the Arts Council
"We understand that companies need to re-invent themselves when their products no longer appeal to their consumers, but we do not believe that this is the case with the ENO," the letter said.

"We have a large and loyal audience which is committed to the company as it is currently structured.

"We believe that it will be impossible to implement such radical changes without fundamentally altering the character of the company and risking alienating our audience.

"This could lead to a serious long-term decline in box office figures."

Staff and performers' union Equity has said the cuts could harm the quality of the opera's work.

Choristers also claim that the company already has to hire extra singers for the operas it mounts.
ENO's A Masked Ball
ENO's A Masked Ball won controversy but not audiences

Mr Hewitt was presented with a petition by audience members at Tuesday's dress rehearsal of their upcoming production Khovanshchina.

An Arts Council spokesman said the council was not responsible for any potential job losses.

"We fully understand the concerns of the chorus and their right to protest, but we don't get involved in this kind of management dispute.

"Our role is to provide financial stability for the company if and where needed. Responsibility for the staff lies entirely with the ENO," he said.

'Cruel process'

Last week an Equity spokesman said: "The choristers are absolutely flabbergasted and there's an enormous sense of betrayal.

"They 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."

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

"We are undergoing a period of due terms of consultation. There was a process of consultation between ENO management and the union."

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  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Terry Stiastny
"They have all ready shown their discontent by singing in whispers"
See also:

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