Opera Europa’s Artistic Administration & Producing forum met with OMAI – Opera Managers Association International – in Berlin on 8 and 9 April. The open discussions and constructive exchanges led to these recommendations for future contracts, addressing concerns of the artists, their managers and the organisations which employ them.
A contract is a two-way agreement of a professional commitment between an opera company and an artist, and the agent or artist manager is the middle person who must ensure the contract is fair and respected by both parties.
Definition of employment
Opera companies recognise that employment starts with rehearsals and covers performances and digital capture for free transmission to a wider audience during a determined period of time. The overall fee agreed upon therefore covers this employment, as specified by the contract.
In today’s digital world of subsidised culture, free access to performance capture is part of the investment made by opera companies to make their art available to a wider audience. This is part of the artist’s responsibility and job. Should a commercial exploitation of capture be proposed, the artist has the right to demand payment.
The complexity of media rights for all artists involved in a production – creative team, orchestra, chorus and soloists – imposes restrictions on promotional dissemination of extracts by artists; but extracts used for professional reasons in a private and discrete manner are industry practice.
Contracts are written in good faith and with the best intentions of fulfilling them; but it is recommended to plan for unforeseen events.
Cancellation clauses should detail what companies are prepared to offer, if a production has to be cancelled or postponed. This might include rescheduling of the production, a replacement contract in another production, or a partial or full pay-out.
Similarly, should an artist cancel their participation in a production, a penalty may be applied to recognise the extra expense and time investment required by the company to find a suitable replacement.
National regulations play a big part in setting payment terms; but the contract should clearly state what should be expected. With the recognition of rehearsal periods as part of the contract, a first payment may be advanced before the first performance.