Warsaw opera protests subsidy cuts with street requiem

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The Warsaw opera, renowned for its summer Mozart programme, played a requiem on Tuesday in front of the culture ministry to protest against public funding cuts that have put its future in jeopardy.

Officials from the region of Warsaw decided in March to slash 2012 subsidies to the Warsaw Chamber Opera by a quarter to 14.9 million zloty (3.5 million euros) in a bid to keep public spending in check in tough times.

Touting itself as the world's only opera house to perform all of Mozart's stage works every summer, the Warsaw Opera will perform the marathon programme this year from June 15 to July 26, but ensemble officials warned it could be the final curtain come August.

With the subsidies cut, the opera house will no longer be able to pay salaries after the summer season, nor will it manage to afford its rent in central Warsaw. Director Stefan Sutkowski has announced he will resign once the Mozart festival is over.

Tuesday's protest saw the opera musicians, decked out in evening attire, perform Mozart's Requiem under ominous dark, clouds for a fervent audience of hundreds.

The musicians had earlier delivered a petition of 27,000 signatures to the culture ministry to save the Warsaw Opera, and at a Saturday evening open house, they also played a number of Mozart pieces late into the night.

With only 159 seats at the opera, tickets were eagerly snapped up for the majority of programmes proposed by Sutkowski, known for breathing new life into the works of long-forgotten or unjustly overlooked composers.

The opera house has been packed for the last 22 years during the Mozart Festival, when all of Mozart's stage pieces are played over the course of a couple weeks -- "a one-of-a-kind performance," according to the director.

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