Members of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra can breathe a sigh of relief for the time being after the country’s Arts, Culture and Heritage minister Chris Finlayson has branded the idea of axing the touring group ‘unthinkable’.
The orchestra’s future as a government-funded national organisation was placed in jeopardy by an orchestral funding review, issued by its Culture and Heritage Ministry. The discussion paper, released yesterday, described a 32 per cent decrease in ticket sales from 2007 to 2010 for orchestras including the NZSO, and local ensembles the Auckland Philharmonia, Vector Wellington Orchestra, the Christchurch Symphony and the Southern Sinfonia.
The report suggested sharing players and headline performers between the orchestras to lower the costs of running each ensemble, and questioned whether the NZSO, which together with the other orchestras receives NZ $17m a year in government funding, might do better as a non-government organisation. Among several ‘scenarios’ discussed in the paper were creating a single company to run all the orchestras, and removing the NZSO’s official national status.
‘If orchestras were to work as an integrated system, it could improve the sector's overall viability and productivity, but would require players to work flexibly in a variety of settings, sometimes at relatively short notice,' said the report.
Despite fears of cuts to orchestral performers and an ‘increased risk to international orchestra standards’ highlighted in the report, Finlayson was at pains to reassure critics, ‘The NZSO is a jewel in the cultural crown. There is no question of its survival under this government.’