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FRANCE - STRIKES

Paris Opera holds first performance after seven weeks of pension strikes

Dancers from Opera Garnier in Paris, performing Swan Lake as part of the pension reform protests, December 2019.
Dancers from Opera Garnier in Paris, performing Swan Lake as part of the pension reform protests, December 2019. Ludovic MARIN / AFP
2 min

The Paris Opera opened its doors for the first time in seven weeks on Saturday, for a performance of Offenbach's Hoffmann. More than 70 shows have been cancelled since the protests against the government's pension reform began last month.

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The loss in revenue from the cancellation of performances has been estimated at around 15 million euros, which is more than the state's annual contribution to the Opera employees pension fund.

On Saturday, audience members were greeted by the reading of a trade union text before the show could get underway.

"To keep the Opera financially afloat, we have taken the decision to perform this evening," said the union representative, "but we will stay mobilised until the pension bill is removed."

Just before Christmas, images of the protesting Opera employees were seen around the world, as some 40 ballet dancers improvised a show of Swan Lake on the steps of the Opera Garnier in front of banners reading "culture in danger."

The Opera and the Comédie-Française are the only cultural institutions affected by the government's attempt to streamline the pension system.

Ballet dancers are among those employees determined to hold onto a unique system in existence since 1698, which allows them to retire at 42.

Its origins date to the 17th century and Louis XIV, a dancer himself who knew the crippling toll performing at the highest level can take on dancers' bodies.

Dancers have already rejected a watered down proposal that would have the change only affect those who joined the ballet after 2021.

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