Friday 15 January 2021

All is not happy in opera in the Land of Fire and Ice

Puccini: Tosca - Kristján Jóhannsson, Claire Rutter - Icelandic Opera (Photo Johanna Olafsdottir)
Puccini: Tosca - Kristján Jóhannsson, Claire Rutter - Icelandic Opera 2017 (Photo Johanna Olafsdottir)

All is not happy in opera in the Land of Fire and Ice. A recent meeting of Klassís, the Professional Association of Classical Singers in Iceland, passed a vote of no confidence "in the board  and opera director of the Icelandic Opera, Steinunn Birna Ragnarsdóttir, due to the institution’s management practices in recent years."

Icelandic Opera was founded over 40 years ago from a grassroots of the community of Icelandic singers, with the aim of creating a professional platform for Icelandic opera singers and for operatic performance for the people of Iceland. Singers supported opera performances in Iceland, often performing for a fraction of what they are paid for their work abroad. Initially, singers played a large role in the management of the Icelandic Opera, but their level of participation has been steadily declining and is now non-existent.

The press release from Klassis says that "the board and opera director of the Icelandic Opera have repeatedly shown a lack of interest in listening to and addressing the views, complaints and suggestions from singers and other professionals in the field of opera". 

Icelandic Opera is practically the only available work venue for opera singers in Iceland, as it is the only publicly funded institution with a brief of performing opera (it is worth bearing in mind that the country has a population of around 350,000). Unfortunately members of Klassís believe that it has repeatedly been proven that the current opera director and board do not have the interests of opera singers at heart.

Iceland's government has appointed a working group to research the founding of a national opera company, and Klassís hopes that his might be turning point in relations between management and singers.

There is more background (in English) at Iceland Review. We saw Puccini's Tosca performed by Icelandic Opera, with Claire Rutter and Kristján Jóhannsson, in 2017 [see my review]

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