The ballet, an update of La Sylphide, will be performed with a live orchestra for its Sadler's Wells engagement in March, but will use a 1986 recording of Herman Lovenskiold's score on its 13-week tour, beginning in February, to venues in Glasgow, Manchester, and elsewhere.
Horace Trubridge, assistant general secretary of the union, condemned the money spent on a "ropy old recording," and said, "The public want to hear music played live, and it is astounding that the Arts Council should be so out of touch with public opinion."
A representative from Bourne's company cited expense and lack of funds as the reason for the recording's use, but, according to the Times, Trubridge felt Bourne should have extended his creativity to finding a way to produce Highland Fling with less than a full orchestra.
"It doesn't take a great deal of planning or creativity to produce Highland Fling with a dozen musicians."
An Arts Council representative confirmed that it encourages the use of live orchestras whenever possible. In the current case, however, "there were financial difficulties. Do we intervene in this one? No, we don't."
Of Bourne's Nutcracker, which was also performed with live music only at Sadler's Wells, Trubridge said, "Everybody else had to put up with a bloody recording. It smacks of, 'It's all right for audiences outside of London to put up with a recording, but London audiences shouldn't have to accept that.' But we're all paying for the Arts Council's funds."
According to Trubridge, live music was not initially planned for the Sadler's Wells performance of Highland Fling either. "They weren't going to. It was only when we said that isn't acceptable that they started having discussions."