Music & Opera Singers Trust Ltd (MOST) is assisting internationally renowned powerhouse soprano, Nicole Car, with her project, Freelance Artist Relief Australia. Freelance Artist Relief Australia has been established to bring immediate financial help to Australian classical singers affected by the Coronavirus crisis. Arts venues were among the first institutions to close due to the current pandemic. As of today, nobody knows when it will be possible to perform again. Freelance artists engaged for single projects and performances have seen their contracts annulled and income disappear for the foreseeable future. There is no safety net … and there was no time to prepare. We need to do something to help.
You to can help Nicole Car and MOST support Australia’s freelance artists in their time of need.
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by Jo Litson on April 11, 2020
NICOLE CAR LAUNCHES FREELANCE ARTIST RELIEF AUSTRALIA
The Australian star soprano has established a fund to help struggling freelance Australian classical singers, here or abroad, who have lost work due to COVID-19.
Australian soprano Nicole Car has a launched a new fund called Freelance Artist Relief Australia to provide financial aid to Australian classical singers who are struggling to make ends meet after losing work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The fund will offer grants to freelance Australian singers who have had cancelled contracts due to the coronavirus. Freelancers do not have access to many of the government stimuli like JobKeeper and they are looking at many, many months of not being able to work,” Car tells Limelight from her home in Paris.
“These grants will be available for any Australian working in Australia or overseas in any organisation recognised by the Australia Council for the Arts, or internationally. I have spoken to a range of my colleagues who have explained their situations and there really is a need for help at this time, and over the coming months.”
As Car points out, there are a lot of Australian opera singers working overseas. “They might have residents permits – like us,” she says, referring to herself and her husband, French-Canadian baritone Etienne Dupuis. “We have residents permits for France but we’re not eligible to apply for any of the aid that the [French] government is offering. I am trying to help my colleagues who, like me, fall into the gaps. In fact, Etienne and I feel so passionately about this we are donating our own money into the fund,” says the star soprano.
Car and Dupuis were in New York performing at the Metropolitan Opera – Car in Così fan tutte and Dupuis in Werther – when the company closed its doors due to COVID-19, like numerous other performance venues globally. Realising how quickly things were changing around the world, Car spent hours and hours trying to book a flight to Paris, where she, Dupuis and their three-year old son Noah are based. A few days later they were on their way.
The situation was already grave in France, and Car realised that many freelance classical singers could be left without a safety net given the way they are employed – usually on a short-term casual basis. She spoke to her Australian manager Patrick Togher about the idea of starting a fund, and things quickly began to take shape. “Patrick has been so instrumental,” says Car of the speed with which things have happened.
Having won the 2012 ASC Opera Awards, now managed by the Music & Opera Singers Trust Ltd. (MOST®), Car also contacted the CEO of MOST®, Roland Gridiger, to ask if the organisation was interested in becoming involved, and was thrilled when he agreed.
“So we are [operating] the fund under the umbrella of MOST® and they have been very generous in helping with that because setting up a charitable trust in a very short amount of time is an impossibility,” she says.
The advisory committee for Freelance Artist Relief Australia includes Virginia Braden, Jane Hemstritch, Graham Pushee, Patrick Togher and Maureen Wheeler, while Simpsons are acting as honorary legal advisors.
The fund has already raised $150,000, and Car is working hard to raise a lot more. All donations to the fund are fully tax-deductible.
“We hope to raise $1,000,000,” she says. “People can donate by going onto the website and using the very simple process on the page.”
Car says she is “so proud of the way Opera Australia has been able to handle the situation so far in terms of keeping people on. It’s a huge thing to keep the chorus and the orchestra [on contract]. We love the Met but the Met has got rid of all of its chorus, all of its orchestra, everyone has been laid off, no one is getting any salary at all where OA have been able to keep people on, which is a huge thing in this time.”
But for freelance opera singers, the situation is altogether more challenging since most of them are employed on short-term contracts and so don’t quality for JobKeeper, which is only eligible to casual workers who have been working for an employer for at least 12 months.
Car believes that it can be difficult for opera singers to ask for help. “We are so proud of our work and so proud of what we do that people don’t want to ask for handouts. That’s not what this fund is at all. It is basically saying we understand that you are professionals in your field, you manage your lives and finances outside of this, but this has all been taken out of our control [by COVID-19].”
There is no specific dollar amount attached to the grants available from Freelance Artist Relief Australia – though they are only available to people who have had performances cancelled or postponed on or after March 12, 2020 because of the coronavirus.
“What we want is for people to come and tell us what they need,” says Car. “We are looking at around six months of not working and so by my calculations if we can raise a million dollars we can help almost all of the freelance singers that are in need for six months. But it has to be to do with the contracts that they have had. If they only had one contract in that time that was worth $5000 then we can’t offer them more than $5000.”
Though she and Dupuis have “a little buffer” to keep them going for a while, Car admits that it’s quite scary not knowing how long it will be before live performances are possible again. She should have been singing Thaïs in Berlin this month, and La Bohème at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden next month, both cancelled of course. In July, she and Dupuis – who last performed in Australia in July/August 2019 – were scheduled to star together in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin for Opera Australia, though that also looks unlikely.
Car is scheduled to sing in Vienna in February 2021, but even though Austria is starting to open some shops this week, it is unclear when theatres will be able to open.
With so many opera singers in a similar situation, Car hopes the new fund will provide much-needed support. “There is no safety net and there was no time to prepare. I felt I needed to do something to help my colleagues who, like me, fall into the gaps,” she says. “This is a time for human kindness and looking after people as best we can.”
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