PARIS (AP) – The striking musicians of the Paris Opera have opened a new year of protest against the government of President Emanuel Macron by playing excerpts from Carmen and Romeo and Juliet in a square steeped in the history of the French Revolution.
The enthusiastic, impromptu performance on Tuesday on the porch of the Opera of the Bastille served as a dramatic reminder of the rocky beginning of 2020, which Macron expects due to the constant blows to his government’s plans to reform the French pension system.
Tuesday marks the 27th consecutive day of transport strikes. The Versailles Palace, which usually attracted tourists, said it was also closed on Tuesday due to strikes.
Musicians who have been knocking down instruments since open strikes on December 5th have rejoiced at the opportunity to play for the crowd who gathered to hear them on Paris Bastille Square, once the site of the notorious prison stormed by a revolutionary crowd in July 14, 1789, and then demolished.
“We are all at the bottom of a deep hole and cannot play since December 5,” said violinist Emily Belaud.
But she added that the members of the orchestra are determined to remain firm. From December 5, the Paris Opera was supposed to cancel all its planned ballets and operas – a total of 63 performances.
“If the government continues to be stubborn and refuses to negotiate in good conditions, we will continue,” Belaud promised.
The crowd chanted for refusing a major pension overhaul, which would have removed the right to receive a full pension from 62 to 64 years. They also shouted: “We are one! The main blow! “
Macron wants to combine 42 different France retirement plans into one, giving all employees the same common rights.
Workers at the Paris Opera said that if they were handled, such changes would make their working conditions unbearable. Currently, his dancers may retire at the age of 42; stage technicians and singers aged 57 and musicians aged 60.
Union delegate Mathias Bergmann said retirement age reductions will come at the expense of workers’ health and undermine the internationally recognized quality of performances at the Paris Opera.
“When they say“ 62 or 64, ”we say,“ You have to be crazy, ”he said. “We have a lot of technicians with broken backs because of everything they wore over the years.”
Negotiations between the government and the unions should resume in early January.