Janes v Opera Australia

The latest issue of The Monthly includes the most detailed account so far of the complaints about Opera Australia and its present policies under the musical direction of Richard Hickox. You can’t read it online unless you subscribe, but suffice to say it is not a story which takes Hickox’s side.

Hickox’s dismissal of Janes’s complaints as “cowardly” (presumably because she attacked his casting of his wife) is entirely laughable because, on the contrary, it was profoundly courageous, including in the classic Sir-Humphrey sense. I know nepotism is an ugly word, but I would not say (as Sarah Noble has) that PHS was “at (or above) the standard of this company” and certainly not “above” if the standard were to be assessed by reference to the singers available to it rather than simply those who have been employed recently. Possibly this is just a question of when SN has come into the room.

I now regret more than ever my cowardice at the last AGM of the company. What a cosy bunch of self-appointers that board is! I certainly never took seriously the board’s undertaking that they would thoroughly investigate Janes’s complaints, especially when the investigation was entrusted to Rowena Danziger. That was an Appleby-esque inquiry if ever there was one.

But what can be done? The article makes clear that the problems at the opera, if problems there be – if you like we could say “grievances” – are not simply a matter of Janes whingeing. In that respect my headline to this post trivialises the issues. Some of the matters complained about may well be defensible reactions to the financial and practical difficulties of financing and maintaining opera in this country, though exactly how defensible they are would repay scrutiny in particular cases.

The article also lets drop a few so-and-so is so-and-so’s partner tidbits. Apart from explaining why some artists can work in Australia despite the official quota on overseas artists, these also shed further light on how difficult if can be to stop things getting personal.

I don’t expect these issues to go away. At the very least, next year’s AGM could well be a more lively, and necessarily truthful or at least candid (on the part of the board) occasion than this year’s was. I certainly plan to be there.

7 Responses to “Janes v Opera Australia”

  1. Sarah Says:

    Well, yes, I meant she was at the standard of the currently employed talent, nothing more sweeping than that, since all my Australian opera-going has happened in the Hickox reign. My point was that, if I heard/saw her performance from somebody else – an Australian, say, who’d never even spoken to Hickox, let alone married him – or if the music director was somebody else and PHS was engaged as a guest artist, I don’t think I would feel hard done by.

    Obviously the ethical issues are more complex and wide-ranging than this, but within my own little world I’m happy with Pamela as is. If he starts putting her in every second show, no doubt I’ll feel differently.

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  3. Victor Says:

    Alan Jones is on the case now and no doubt will use his particular brand of lobbying skills to hound the Opera Australia Board.

  4. wanderer Says:

    Ah the wikid Mrs Danvers – I think you are getting warmer. She saw Simone Rebecca Young off the threshold.

    I think Mr Hickox unfairly criticised, for doing what he was employed to do, presumably an arrangement not unreasonably including his wife, she too removed from her otherwise employment opportunities, and together they constitute the Simone Rebecca Young departure debacle rescue package.

    You are right. Storm the west wing.

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