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National Theatre and Opera staff warn of talent drain

Staff at the National Theatre and National Opera say that sharp budget cuts suggested by Minister of Culture Paavo Arhinmäki would undermine their basic operations.

Jani Talo and Petia Ilieva in the National Ballet's "Sleeping Beauty"
Jani Talo and Petia Ilieva in the National Ballet's "Sleeping Beauty" Image: Suomen Kansallisbaletti / Sakari Viika

Over the weekend, Culture Minister Arhinmäki indicated that the institutions may face across-the-board budget cuts of 10 percent beginning in 2014.

The chief union representative of actors at the National Theatre (NT), Olli Ikonen, says that planning of future productions will have to be put on ice due to the uncertain situation.

“We won’t be able to hire any new actors or other staff,” he explains. “Our plans for 2014 are at a standstill, since we don’t know how deep the cuts will actually be. It’s a big problem.”

Youngsters forced overseas?

As it is, say employee representatives at both the Opera House and the NT, performers are being forced into a pace of work that pushes them to the edge of their endurance. Further staff reductions would be a serious problem for the National Ballet, which is part of the National Opera.

“The volume of work will fall onto the shoulders of an ever-smaller group,” predicts the ballet dancers’ union rep, Jani Talo.

“In a dancer’s work, you come up against the sheer physical limits at a certain point. Nobody can do this kind of athletic work for 12 hours a day,” he says.

Talo points out that a hiring freeze would in effect force young Finnish performers to move abroad, leading to a ‘brain drain’ of domestic talent.

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