At Paris Opera, Last Holdout Union Ends Current Strike But Calls Another

Classic Arts News   At Paris Opera, Last Holdout Union Ends Current Strike But Calls Another
The new Robert Carsen staging of Wagner's Tannh‹user at the Op_ra National de Paris will finally be seen as intended tomorrow evening, on the fourth performance of its run, thanks to the ending of a strike by one small and recalcitrant labor union at the company.

Earlier this fall, the Op_ra was plagued by a series of strikes by labor unions protesting a proposed overhaul of their pension plans.

In mid-November, most of those unions ended their walkouts, citing progress in negotiations with management; only one group, the FSU, which represents a small number of backstage workers at the Op_ra-Bastille (the newer of the company's two houses), refused to settle. As a result, the Carsen Tannh‹user — touted by the Op_ra as one of the major events of the season, particularly with the presence of Seiji Ozawa on the podium — was given its first three performances in semi-staged form, with lighting and costumes but no scenery. (Understandably, Carsen and his creative team did not acknowledge those performances as representing their work.)

Yesterday, according to a report from Agence France-Presse, the FSU suspended its strike in order "to obtain more details" on the current pension reform proposal. Consequently, company management announced today that tomorrow's Tannh‹user will be presented in its full staging.

The FSU's original strike threat ran through Dec. 20, while the suspension is only through Dec. 17. It is therefore possible that the Dec. 18 Tannh‹user will be semi-staged only; Op_ra management has not yet made any announcement in that regard. In addition, according to AFP, the FSU has called a new strike from Dec. 21 through Jan. 15, so the production's remaining five performances through the end of this month could be affected as well.

None of the other three productions currently running at the Op_ra National de Paris — The Nutcracker at the Bastille and the ballet Pasquita and Handel's opera Alcina (also in a Carsen staging) at the historic Palais Garnier — are affected by the FSU's continuing labor actions.

The Op_ra's management has indicated that, at this point, the company can put on its performances without the few workers who were continuing a walkout. FSU's continued strike threat allows its members to stop work legally; last week the company's director of human resources suggested to AFP that the union was merely enabling its members at the company to take vacation whenever they please without fear of disciplinary action.

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