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English National Opera is slammed for sacking singers during of interval The Handmaid’s Tale in a move branded ‘cruel, wicked and thoughtless’


The English National Opera has been slammed for handing out redundancy notices to singers and musicians midway through their final performance of the The Handmaid’s Tale

The performers were sent the notices electronically shortly before the curtain for the last show at the London Coliseum went up on Thursday.

But many of the performers only saw the full details of their redundancies during the interval backstage, reports classical music news site Slipped Disc

The singers and musicians went on to finish their performance of the critically acclaimed production. 

The English National Opera (ENO) has been criticised for the move with one critic describing the lay offs as ‘cruel, wicked and heartless’. 

The English National Opera (ENO) has been slammed for handing out redundancy notices to singers and musicians midway through their final performance of the The Handmaid's Tale

The English National Opera (ENO) has been slammed for handing out redundancy notices to singers and musicians midway through their final performance of the The Handmaid’s Tale

The performers were sent the notices electronically shortly before the curtain for the last show at the London Coliseum had gone up on Thursday

The performers were sent the notices electronically shortly before the curtain for the last show at the London Coliseum had gone up on Thursday

Many of the performers only saw the full details of their redundancies during the interval backstage

Many of the performers only saw the full details of their redundancies during the interval backstage

Another added that it was ironic it happened during a performance of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel where women can’t work and instead their only fucntion is giving birth.  

A source, described as ‘trusted insider’, told the Slipped Disc classical music news site: ‘Members of the chorus and orchestra started receiving formal redundancy notices from the ENO ‘director of people’ Denise Mackenzie this evening – beginning in the hour before curtain-up of the final performance of Handmaid’s Tale, and continuing through the evening.

‘Many singers and players first saw their sacking emails during the interval.

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is one of the most technically and emotionally demanding works in ENO’s recent repertoire.’

The English National Opera has been criticised for the move with one critic describing the lay offs as 'cruel, wicked and heartless'

The English National Opera has been criticised for the move with one critic describing the lay offs as ‘cruel, wicked and heartless’

The lay offs come following a long-running funding crisis at the English National Opera

The lay offs come following a long-running funding crisis at the English National Opera

The source added: ‘The conductor, Joana Carneiro, was horrified when she learned what was taking place, and then astonished that the performance showed no signs whatever of the turmoil being inflicted on the performers in real time.’

Susan McCulloch, a renowned soprano and vocal teacher, told The Telgraph: ‘I cannot begin to imagine the sad hearts, tight throats, veiled tears and anger at the ENO today.’

She added: ‘It’s the most incredible, wonderful company and unthinkable to have the British opera scene without it. 

‘That the members were served redundancy notices mid-performance is cruel, wicked and thoughtless beyond belief.’

The lay offs come following a long-running funding crisis at the English National Opera. 

The company lost a £12.8million annual grant when it was removed from Arts Council England’s national portfolio in November 2022. 

Banners advertising operas being performed by the English National Opera, in central London

Banners advertising operas being performed by the English National Opera, in central London 

The empty auditorium of the London Coliseum, current home of the English National Opera

The empty auditorium of the London Coliseum, current home of the English National Opera

Shortly before the redundancy notices were sent out, musicians at the English National Opera had voted to call off strike action after they reached an agreement with the management over proposed job cuts. 

Member’s of the company’s orchestra, chorus and music staff walked out on February 1 on the opening night of the Handmaid’s Tale. 

Union members agreed to the walk out in December after ENO announced plans to employ them for only six months of the year, as well as cutting 19 of the 69 orchestral positions.

In the same month, the headquarters of the respected opera company was forced out of the capital after Arts Council England (ACE) adjusted its funding plans.

Controversially, ACE went as far as to threaten to axe its annual £12million grant if the opera refused to find a new location. The funding body has since begun to gradually reintroduce its financial support.

ENO considered Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Nottingham as its potential new home but eventually announced Manchester would be its main base from 2029.

Mailonline has contacted English National Opera for comment.  



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