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Opera Australia to restructure and sell warehouse base

Opera Australia to restructure and sell warehouse base
August 24, 2020

Impacted by having cancelled more than 500 performance during the Coronavirus shutdown, Opera Australia has announced that it is to sell its warehouse base in the Sydney suburb of Alexandria and undertake an organisational restructure to reduce costs.

Staff were told about the restructure, which will include a number of redundancies, on Friday afternoon by Opera Australia Chief Executive, Rory Jeffes.

Informing staff of the changes, which will be undertaken in the coming weeks and months, Jeffes said the company will consult with staff and stakeholders including the MEAA union regarding the planned job losses.

Opera Australia stood down the majority of its staff in March under an employee support package, which allowed them to access up to 80% of their regular salary. This was extended to September, with the company receiving the JobKeeper wage subsidy to help pay the reduced wages.

Since venues were shuttered in March because of the Coronavirus, the company has cancelled more than 570 performances, and lost more than $75 month in expected ticket revenue.

Last month, Opera Australia cancelled all remaining productions programmed for 2020 and announced that it was postponing its digital Ring Cycle, scheduled for Brisbane in November/December this year.

When COVID-19 first hit, Jeffes discussed the option of Opera Australia selling both of its Sydney properties - the warehouse in Alexandria and the Opera Centre in Surry Hills, which houses rehearsal studios, offices and workshops.

In his message to staff, Jeffes advised “back in March nobody knew how long, and the extent to which, the coronavirus crisis would impact our lives. Now, as we approach six months of impact, the one thing that is clear is that this will continue to disrupt our lives, and our ability to operate as a performing arts company, for the foreseeable future.

“There is no denying our Company - and indeed our whole industry - has been hit incredibly hard. This, combined with the broader uncertainty that this once-in-a-century pandemic brings, means that I must share with you today that workplace change must occur to allow the long-term viability and artistic ambitions of Opera Australia.”

Jeffes said that the loss of ticket income during 2020, which normally makes up half of the company’s revenue has been “devastating”. Looking forward to 2021, he said that “many uncertainties regarding ongoing restrictions on venue capacities, health regulations, travel restrictions and physical distancing” remain.

Image: Props in Opera Australia's Alexandra warehouse. Courtesy of Simon Calton.

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