A Cri du Coeur from French Artists

By Frank Cadenhead. March 16, 2020.

This is a major declaration of French opera’s performing artists. This “Cri du Coeur” makes plain that the abrupt cancellation of all opera everywhere in France at Midnight on March 14 leaves both artists and staff without any idea of when this will end and if there will be any reimbursements for lost pay.


In the difficult medical crisis that the country is currently experiencing, the lyric artists, today, gather together to draw the attention of the public authorities to the seriousness of the professional and personal situations that this crisis is causing.

We are well aware that the urgency today is to take care of the most fragile people in the face of this scourge whose spread must be stopped, but it is important to think about its social consequences.

All of the classical music institutions, opera houses and concert halls, have decided to cancel all of their performances.

If we speak collectively today, it is because the current health crisis dramatically accentuates a state of precariousness and isolation in which we experience already. More and more theaters are now announcing their complete closure and we are witnessing an unprecedented accumulation of unilateral breaches of contracts throughout our sector: especially among soloists, choir artists, instrumentalists, conductors, directors, dancers , technicians, extras, choir leaders and artist agents that we would all like to associate with our declaration. Our job is a passion but that should not make us forget the reality: the clear breach of one or more contracts for the coming months means the total cessation of our professional activity as well as an immense loss of artistic opportunities, especially for the youngest among us.

In French labor law, performing artists are employed in “fixed-term contracts”. These contracts, negotiated directly with the organizing companies, are the result of long years of work and waiting. In addition, they give entitlement to the unemployment compensation plan known as “the intermittence of the spectacle”. These contracts are essential for us in more ways than one. First, they are our main and often the only source of income. On the other hand, it is a career issue: a contract can have decisive consequences in the development of an artistic career. Finally, they are the central parts of the calculation of our hours that allow us to benefit from the essential safety net that constitutes intermittency.

The breach of these contracts is normally framed by labor law but, the current situation being unprecedented, we hear a plurality of responses from our employers. A number of them are doing their best not to penalize anyone, sometimes at the risk of endangering their cash, however some singers seem to have to give up their entire salary.

Are we in a case of force majeure? If so, does the Covid-19 epidemic characterize a “force majeure incident” within the meaning of article 1234-4 paragraph 2 of the labor code? Where applicable, this public policy provision prohibits a unilateral termination of the CDD on the initiative of the employer without compensation for the benefit of the employee, notwithstanding any contractual clause to the contrary.

Are we, as employees (even on fixed-term contracts) eligible for the partial unemployment procedure announced? If not, is it fair that we are excluded from the state’s promise not to let any employee lose their job? How will the hours lost in calculating our status be counted? What compensation for loss of opportunity is possible?

We need clear answers to the gravity of a crisis which threatens the future of a large number of artists and greatly accentuates the precariousness in which some of them already find themselves. We appeal to our supervisory Ministry, as well as to the Ministry of the Economy and to the Prime Minister. Art and culture are essential to our society and to the influence of our country in the world. We are the proud representatives in France and elsewhere. As such, we deserve not to be treated as mere adjustment variables subject to the arbitrary decisions of certain employers.

We ask that no decision relating to the cancellation of contracts and the payment of wages be taken until the legal framework has been defined. We are ready to make efforts in this common test but, in no case, to sacrifice our future as artists.

We all hope to quickly return to the stage and our audience, our greatest support. Once this ordeal has been overcome, it will be essential, in the country of cultural exception, for a substantive debate to begin on the statutory protection of our performing trades.”

Roberto Alagna, Kévin Amiel, Guillaume Andrieux, Jean-Luc Ballestra, Stanislas de Barbeyrac, Cassandre Berthon, Christophe Berry, Julien Behr, Benjamin Bernheim, Thomas Bettinger, Yann Beuron, Jean-Vincent Blot, Jean-François Borras, Jean-Sebastien Bou, Ambroisine Bré, Raphaël Brémard, Chloé Briot, Hélène Carpentier, Albane Carrère, Nicolas Cavallier, Adèle Charvet, Nicolas Courjal, Marianne Croux, Marianne Crebassa, José van Dam, Thibault de Damas, Stéphane Degout, Camille Delaforge, Mireille Delunsch, Antoinette Dennefeld, Léa Desandre, Karine Deshayes, Charlotte Despaux, Sabine Devieilhe, Jodie Devos, Olivia Doray, Pierre Doyen, Julien Dran, Cyrille Dubois, Yoann Dubruque, Alexandre Duhamel, Philippe Estèphe, Mathilde Etienne, Aude Extrémo, Loïc Felix, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, Julie Fuchs Christophe Gay, Paul Gay, Véronique Gens, Anne-Catherne Gillet, Emiliano Gonzales Toro, Olivier Grand, Sébastien Guèze, Delphine Haidan, André Heijboer, Eric Huchet, Enguerrand de Hys, Philippe Jarrousky, Caroline Jesteadt, Marie Karall, Marc Labonnette, Florian Laconi, Marc Laho, Jean-Christophe Lanièce, Marion Lebègue, Matthieu Lécroart, Aimery Lefèvre, Marie Lenormand, Alix Le Saux, Lionel Lhote, François Lis, Philippe-Nicolas Martin, Clémentine Margaine, Héloïse Mas, Rémy Mathieu, Elodie Méchain, Régis Mengus, Anaïk Morel, Laurent Naouri, Stéphanie d’Oustrac, Eléonore Pancrazi, Julie Pasturaud, Patricia Petibon, Gabrielle Philiponnet, Anthéa Pichanik, François Piolino, Camille Poul, Marie Perbost, Julie Robard-Gendre, François Rougier,  Pauline Sabatier, Francesco Salvadori, Chantal Santon-Jeffery, Vannina Santoni, Anas Séguin, Jean Fernand Setti, Philippe Talbot, Jean Teitgen, Marie-Ange Todorovitch, Catherine Trottmann, Béatrice Uria Monzon, Florie Valiquette, Mathias Vidal, Guilhelm Worms.

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