Paris Opera Festival Canceled Amid Strike

Organizers of the Aix-en-Provence opera festival have canceled the event, marking one of the biggest casualties of an ongoing strike by French performers over jobless benefits.

Organizers of the Aix-en-Provence opera festival have canceled the event, marking one of the biggest casualties of an ongoing strike by French performers over jobless benefits.

The festival's director said a loud march by hundreds of show business workers yesterday (July 9) outside a performance of Verdi's "La Traviata" at an Aix theater was the last straw.

"This is a considerable waste for the 600 artists, a waste for the personnel that decided, despite the pressure, to perform and for me -- I tried everything," Stephane Lissner told France-2 television.

With disruptions and performer walkouts common in the first three days of the festival, Lissner said he had decided to "put a definitive end" to the event, which was to run July 7-28.

The 55th edition of the festival was one of the highest-profile casualties of a string of protests by performers angry over government plans to change their jobless benefits. Dozens of summer cultural events have been canceled in the strike's wake.

French actors, technicians, costume designers and other stagehands have mounted waves of protests in recent weeks -- just as the summer art festival season gets underway.

Over the past few days, protesters delayed the shooting of a movie starring Jack Nicholson, held up a stage of the Tour de France and impeded efforts to prepare a Rolling Stones concert near Paris. Yesterday, the famed Avignon Festival in southern France remained shuttered for a second day after performers and stagehands voted to stay off the job.

The conflict centers on a proposal to change a French unemployment fund for artists that takes into account their downtime between shows. The business federation that helps run the fund says it is running a $936 million deficit, and insists the benefits and number of performers who get them must be reduced.

The artists say the plan will harm French culture and punish performers who have a hard time lining up work.


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