Sues Icelandic Opera Over Wage Dispute Skip to content

Sues Icelandic Opera Over Wage Dispute

By Yelena

Scene from the Icelandic Opera's 2017 staging of Tosca
Photo: Jóhanna Ólafsdóttir. Icelandic Opera’s 2017 production of Tosca.

Opera singer Þóra Einarsdóttir is suing the Icelandic Opera, claiming the company underpaid her and several other singers for their work in a Marriage of Figaro production in 2019, RÚV reports. The opera company claims that since the singers were hired as contractors, it was not obliged to pay them union rates. Þóra expressed disappointment that no representatives of the company attended the principal proceedings in the court case, which took place last Friday.

The Icelandic Opera premiered their production of The Marriage of Figaro in September 2019. Several of the show’s soloists complained about an excessive workload throughout the production and turned to the Icelandic Musicians Union (FÍH) for support. The union’s chairman Gunnar Hrafnsson says the singers’ combined wage demands were around ISK 4 million ($31,000/€26,000).

Þóra argues that the Icelandic Opera did not pay singers according to FÍH’s rates. The company argues, however, that the rates only applied to singers permanently employed by the opera. The opera now only hires singers are contract workers and therefore the rates are irrelevant, according to the company. Gunnar stated, however, that the Icelandic Opera never officially terminated the permanent contracts it had with singers and therefore the performances in question must be paid according to FÍH’s union rates. Þóra has stated she believes it is important to clarify the issue so singers know where they stand.

Young Singers Lack Support, Says Plaintiff

In a public Facebook post, Þóra decried the lack of opportunities and support for emerging opera singers in Iceland. According to the singer, when the Icelandic Opera contracts Icelandic soloists who live abroad, it does not pay their travel expenses or room and board, rather singers get a one-time contract fee of ISK 300,000 ($2,350/€1,940) before taxes for around six weeks of work, six days per week. She also charged the company with failing to respect occupational safety and health regulations.

Icelandic Opera’s lawyer Viðar Lúðvíksson stated that his client believes the issue will be clarified through the evidence presented and considered it unnecessary to attend the proceedings last Friday. About the case, Viðar said “It is simply a dispute between a contractor and buyer over the content of contracts.” He stated that the company’s director did not receive an invitation or summons to the court proceedings.

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