On this day in history : 19th October 1991 – Performances at London’s Royal Opera House are cancelled due to a pay dispute with orchestra members….
The 118 members of the orchestra argued that they were the only performers at Covent Garden who were expected to supply their own clothing and instruments…. They sought a 24% pay increase….
At the time the state-subsidised Royal Opera House was having acute financial difficulties…. On becoming Chairman in 1991 Sir Angus Stirling had inherited a £2.5 million accumulated deficit – because of this the ROH could only offer a 5.5% increase….
The orchestra retaliated by refusing to wear the required evening dress and dinner jackets for performances and turned up wearing jeans and casual clothing…. To take their protest even further they announced plans to observe all intermissions called for in the original score of any ballet or opera….thus ignoring the artistic discretion of the conductor and director…. For example: an upcoming production which was to start that coming week would have a total of ‘four’ intermissions instead of the proposed ‘one’ – and one of those breaks was to occur after an act of just eight minutes long….
As a result it was decided all performances would be cancelled until the orchestra ended its protest and the matter be resolved….