I think we can all agree that we have been through a war together in
these last weeks. And I want to make quite clear from the start that
ANYTHING I am about to say now is not on the same dimension of what
some here are facing or coping with. Nor does it have the same heroic
stature of what some here have achieved in the face of extreme
adversity. It is my personal response – albeit one that has taken
immense consideration and reflection. One last battle then....
I am resigning from the post of artistic director of the Royal Opera.
In fact, the truth is, I actually resigned from this post back in late
November. Informing the management. And I am afraid here some
background detail needs to be said.
First, never lose sight of the fact that the government cuts to the
Royal Theatres are the catalyst of my actions, however not at all the
The cuts are a meaningless act of vandalism – the equivalent of taking
a flick-knife to the Mona Lisa. So tiny in any national picture: so
devastating to us. And so cynical in view of what culture can achieve
and give a community in trouble. Also in the particular case of opera
these cuts are ignorant in their immediacy. I opposed and still oppose
these openly and vocally. But I think we share all this view.
I felt impelled to resign in late November when I really saw what
these cuts meant in terms of human cost. I found it hard to live with
myself being an agent of something I so profoundly disagreed with. I
have only ever sacked one singer in my long career, and my only
philosophy was that life is divided between the creators and the
destroyers – and I had always counted on myself as a creator.
The human cost I could see was in two forms: the redundancy and
downsizing, AND the effect this would have on our provision on top
class art for this community, city, country. No outreach, no foyer
activities – all of which I have been shouting my mouth off about for
months and less performances of less operas. Anyway it would always
seem wrong to me to be spending money outside the house on projects
(which anyway should be the responsibility of any real government’s
education programme) while making people unemployed within the house.
The outreach had to go first, but was something this company
desperately needed. And I wanted for the company.
There seemed to be so few choices of what to cut and yet over and over
again I would present the possibilities of more radical lasting
change, most of which were never examined or simply blocked. Whole
areas that as the boss of the opera I simply could not touch – or even
were allowed to consider, let alone dabble with.
For example, I asked for a financial study to be done looking at us
turning to a “Stagione” system; purely as a money saving measure. And
although our brilliant planning office here at the opera did a half
season draft proposal – never did I get any financial study.
I asked for the right to look at the orchestra playing for less ballet
evenings. This would internally save overtime costs; I asked,
remember, as the head of the orchestra, not head of the opera and was
told it couldn’t be considered. Despite us facing Armageddon.
At the beginning of the cuts, I was assured that everything could be
on the table for discussion, in the end very little was – certainly
not at anything I was party too.
I wanted to look at the costs of our production house in producing
sets, which sometimes seems alarming to me, and despite one
discussion, and my providing some proof by comparing two wildly
contrasting quotes, I was basically ignored.
At the moment, the whole technical staffing of the house is being
re-drawn, re-arranged and despite the fact I have worked for over 30
years in over fifty opera houses, on 120 productions, in 17 countries
– the only person in the Royal Theatres with anything like this kind
of experience or any experience outside the Royal Theatres – I have
never been consulted or asked, and I have offered, questioned,
demanded continually. In fact, I have not even now been told what the
I ask: Why on earth am I here?
When Kim Bohr recently left the organisation, I – and the other 2
artistic directors – pleaded to appoint 2 people to fulfil his
overloaded post. One, please, a great administrator, especially in
the technical theatre field, and a second, international class fund
raiser in view of the cuts. Our pleas were ignored. In fact, the only
new foundation money which is on the horizon – from Nordea - was found
by me (an outsider who knows no-one in Denmark) through a chance
meeting in my apartment block. No major new avenues have been opened
in this entire year for the opera at least. Some have closed.
Why would I not resign? I have to front to you and the world endless
decisions over which I am given shallow choices, little real control
and absolutely no respect.
An example of my frustration, on such a silly, petty level that I am
embarrassed almost to mention it. I have two tickets to each
performance – if we have special guests, as recently happened with a
world class composer who was visiting us – and I am sitting in my
seats, I have to make a special application to get permission to have
more seats. Can you imagine what that feels like – when you are
nominally supposed to be head of the opera house. And this nonsense
goes from this, which I could laugh at, right up to the planning of
next season which is now being made by offices in the Royal Theatres,
solely due to the financial situation, without my leadership. I fight
it all, go to meetings and usually get nowhere.
So I talked of my resignation last November, finally knowing that the
cuts in light of the restrictive power I am given made the job
impossible to realise in a way that I could live with. And, to be
honest, to face you as a real rather than a puppet leader.
And in case you now hear to the contrary, I am certainly not afraid to
make cuts, we have been cutting since the first day I arrived, nor am
I fed up with being here in Copenhagen and have always wanted to
leave; this decision is a financial disaster for me, but I would feel
even worse to be taking part in something with which I didn’t approve.
I just wanted what I was promised, to be in charge of an opera
company. A job with the recognisable framework clear from a hundred
other European Opera Houses. Then I would be happy to face anything
with you and accept responsibility for their consequences.
In fact, this was why although resigning then, I’ve kept it quiet
until now. I really felt and know that you needed someone who did a
few things to see you past these tough measures – even though not
always agreeing with them. But although I feel shamefully that I
didn’t do much to divert some of the horror, I do also know that it
would all have been far worse if I had not been around. I can see
this in the decisions that were in some instances actually snatched
away from me - they are all bad moves.
These are only a few instances of my discomfort – there are many, many
more in the same vein….. Don’t even get me started on publicity for
our performances – another area I have no effectual control over.
I left the announcement until now because in this I agreed with Erik
that we needed to settle your life here before I dealt with mine. I
even promised Erik not to talk about the cuts to the press, not to
tell my agent, nor to tell Jakub. So much has only happened in the