The Kiwi Tenor Accuses NZ Opera of “Predatory” Behavior Regarding Young Singers’ Fees | 1 NEWS

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A top-level Kiwi tenor accuses NZ Opera of “predatory” behavior, offering young singers low performance fees.

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The government and council-funded organization denies the allegations, but artists 1 NEWS spoke to said they were not getting a fair deal. Source: 1 NEWS


The government and council-funded organization reject the claims, but three artists interviewed by 1 NEWS said they were not getting a fair rate.

1 NEWS has agreed not to name the singers because they fear reprisals from the company.

One singer said “under current management the fees are significantly lower than one would expect from similar sized companies internationally. NZ Opera does not appear willing to negotiate with artists on these fees.

“There are fewer opportunities and there is less money to offer and therefore young singers feel compelled to say yes,” commented a second singer.

A third signatory said she would have made more money teaching.

“What’s frustrating is that they have so many staff and a lot of the funding seems to go to staff instead of hiring singers and playing opera.”

A New Zealand opera performance. Source: 1 NEWS


Internationally renowned tenor Simon O’Neill said upon his return to New Zealand that he had been approached by singers asking for his opinion on the fees.

“I was so shocked at the predatory nature of some of these fees especially for our young singers which don’t match the rate going all over New Zealand with things like the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra,” said O’Neill.

He said it was a “dismal failure” of the opera company.

“We should all support each other to support artists and not be looked down upon,” O’Neill said.

London-based Kiwi soprano Madeleine Pierard said the singers spoke to her about the rates as well.

“I don’t agree with the young singers who go far, much less and I don’t agree with our national company who seems to not really care… it’s not that it doesn’t. is not produced before, it has not reached the level it is now, ”she said.

NZ Opera says the fees are set by the market through agents and that when they aren’t, “it works to match all fees to the artists’ experience and the creative brief.”

“NZ Opera values ​​its performers and would be unable to attract the quality of talent it does if it does not pay artists fairly,” the company said in a statement.

NZ Opera was in the spotlight after three 10-person board members resigned in May due to dissatisfaction with the company’s artistic direction.

Today, more than 20 past and present opera professionals and donors have written to the Minister of the Arts requesting a review of the sector.

The letter says the signatories are “alarmed that since 2019, the generous investment of nearly $ 9 million funded primarily by

Creative New Zealand, had not been deployed in a way that would bring opera to flourish in New Zealand. Former board member Witi Ihimaera, who recently resigned, and O’Neill are among the signatories.

In 2019, NZ Opera had revenue of $ 6.3 million, of which $ 2.7 million was from Creative NZ. That year he put on two big productions.

Figures provided by NZ Opera show that in 2019 it is spending 49% of its income on production and 38% on administrative expenses.

In 2020, NZ Opera had $ 5.8 million in revenue, of which $ 2.9 million was from Creative NZ. Last year, his main production at the Wedding scale of

Figaro was canceled due to Covid, but he put Semele in Auckland and shot two other smaller productions. In 2020, 40% of revenue was spent on production and 48% on administrative expenses, but the company points out that the year was disrupted by Covid.

NZ Opera has 20 employees. Singers are employed on a contractual basis. The company says its spending has been consistent and appropriate.

The Minister of Arts has no control over NZ Opera and has directed 1 NEWS to Creative NZ.

Creative NZ says it does not intend to commission a review and has no concerns about the financial viability of NZ Opera.

“We encourage organizations that contract artists to pay appropriate and fair compensation within their means and to be transparent with their pricing structures,” Creative NZ CEO Stephen Wainwright said in a statement.


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