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Strike Hits English National Opera

The beleaguered English National Opera, whose management has recently sought to make budget cuts with a plan to make up to a third of its full-time chorus of 60 singers redundant—i.e. fire them—has seen its chorus now hit back with strike action that has already led to the cancellation of one performance on Feb. 25.

The striking chorus instead offered a free concert performance of Verdi's "Requiem" at the nearby St. Paul's Church in Covent Garden that night, playing to a capacity crowd that included Nicholas Payne, until last year the company's artistic director, who said: "I am here to support the chorus. I think they have been very unfairly treated."

Strikes have also been announced that will affect other performances, on April 3 and 16 and May 8 and 24, unless the dispute is resolved.

The company, which faced going into receivership (the UK equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy), was recently bailed out with a 4.1 million pound ($6.4 million) grant from Arts Council England, the national funding body that subsidizes it.

ENO's chairman, Martin Smith, insists that the redundancies are necessary if the company is to survive, though British Equity, representing the affected performers, claims that the plans save only £120,000 ($188,000) out of an annual £30 million ($47 million) budget.

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