Report by Tony Baker, 7 June 2015

A session which wanted to look at the importance of having an ensemble ethos in Opera and Theatre Companies and how that worked as an established model in German Theatre and Opera.

Questions arising and topics touched on included ,

1. Did we move away from an ensemble model in the UK based on singers requirements, ie. not being tied down to employment with one company for an extended period.

2. Did we move away from ensemble because of requests from Directors /Conductors to have more freedom in casting.

3. Costs- do current employment laws mean that keeping an ensemble in permanent employment is simply too expensive?

4. The advantages of Importing “stars”, does a recognized name sell more tickets - are the expensive fees worth it ?

5. Opera performed in English , history of re Royal Opera , ENO /Sadlers Wells and how both companies used to work with a permanent ensemble.

6. Does the idea of “outsourcing ” ie employing as many people as possible on freelance contracts simply reflect the reality of the world we live in - ie applies as much in the business world as in the arts.

7. Who is in charge of funding , is the current Arts Council model fit for purpose.

Should there be more local autonomy.

The Berlin model of funding .

8. Artistic benefits of the ensemble model, ie, proper support and training for younger artists post conservatoire/college. The ability to learn within a performance environment from more experienced colleagues, mentoring. An ongoing shared relationship between singers , directors and conductors building on work previously created together.

9. The ensemble model applying equally to Theatre as well as Opera , the old “Rep” system.

10. Touring Opera models in the UK .

11. Opera North , still retaining an informal unofficial “ensemble” ethos , through casting and permanent chorus.

12. Local audience support for a company/ensemble they get to know and see develop rather than a conveyor belt of new faces each season.