The Arts Council is working on a proposal that would see all three companies, whose combined track record of opera production runs to nearly 150 years, cease to exist.
The companies’ current functions would not be lost, however.
A new company would be set up to mount productions in Dublin, run the Wexford festival, and provide small-scale productions to tour around the country. Staff in the existing companies would not automatically transfer to the new company, which would be based in the new €33 million Wexford Opera House.
This is one of the most dramatic cost-saving measures yet to emerge, although according to the piece the AC has been in discussion with the three since the beginning of the year. With opera comprising an underfunded art form which has struggled historically to find audiences in Ireland, the merge makes some amount of sense (more so than, for instance, the proposed merging of the national art institutions)– however the differences between Wexford Festival Opera (much more international in its programme, talent and target audience) and OI/OTC (largely Dublin-based, and focused on Irish talent, although OTC does tour more) are significant enough. And it certainly sounds like job losses would be part of the equation, no matter how the merger shakes down.
The McCarthy report has recommended slicing the AC’s budget by €6.1 million, meaning there are undoubtedly more cuts in the pipeline… frustrating and anxious times for any organisation heavily dependent on an annual grant.