Rio de Janeiro – Funcionários do Theatro Municipal protestam contra a crise financeira do estado com apresentação artística na escadaria do prédio (Tomaz Silva/Agência Brasil)

Members of the choir, the corps de ballet, and the symphonic orchestra of the Theatro Municipal, in Rio de Janeiro, mobilized hundreds of people Tuesday (Nov. 31) in a street rally against the delay in the payment of salaries of employees. The plight is faced by artists as well as technical and administrative employees, who did not receive their pay for September or any signs they will be paid for October. They are also waiting for their Christmas bonus from last year.

Inaugurated in 1909, the Theatro Municipal of Rio de Janeiro, linked to the state’s Secretariat of Culture, has 550 employees and has been impacted by the financial crisis facing the state government. A similar protest had been staged on May 9, after which workers were paid their dues for 2017. The Christmas bonus for 2016, however, remained pending and the payment of salaries for the following months were also delayed.

The demonstration held today at the front steps of the Theatro Municipal was wrapped up to the sound of the song Apesar de Você, by Chico Buarque. Bystanders joined in the singing.

“The employees want to work. The Theatro Municipal only kept its doors open throughout the year because the employees refused to keep their arms crossed. This is a cultural responsibility of the government. People pay taxes so they can have culture available to them. This house is not for profit; it’s not for making money. It’s a theater for returning to people what they pay for on a daily basis,” said violinist Ayran Nicodemo, head of the Theatro Municipal Orchestra Association.

In the opinion of Tereza Cristina Ubirajara, a ballerina at the Theatro Municipal for 36 years, in addition to the financial impact resulting from the delay in salaries, the artists have been forced to tackle psychological difficulties. “We exercise an occupation in which we cannot make a mistake. We must be minimally emotionally and psychologically stable. But this situation is inhumane,” she declared.

Swan Lake

Due to the circumstances, a new season of Swan Lake was canceled. Some 6.5 thousand tickets had been sold for the performances, which were slated to be held from October 29 to November 8.

“It’s the most difficult ballet in the classical ballet repertoire. In order to be executed, dancers must be in their absolute prime. With delayed salaries, many cannot come everyday for the rehearsals,” said Pedro Ismael Olivero, head of the Union for Workers in Public Entities of the Cultural Action of Rio de Janeiro State (SINTAC) and the Theatro Municipal Corpo Coral Association.

According to Olivero, in addition to the delay in salaries, the state government has failed to honor its commitments in providing funds for the institution. “The Theatro today has been supported by its ticket office. The state government has failed to send the required funds. Productions are financed through funds raised by means of the Rouanet Law [a 1991 law on incentives for cultural activities]. And nothing’s coming in for maintenance costs either,” he reported.

Pending issues

Agência Brasil attempted to reach the state’s Culture Secretariat officials for comments, with no success. The Finance and Planning Secretariat, in turn, said that all civil servants at the Theatro Municipal were paid their August salaries in full on October 6. “As for September, payments are delayed for a total of 474 active employees, whose net value adds up to $600 thousand.”

The Finance Secretariat acknowledges the tardiness and guarantees that “it does not mean authorities have failed to give the Theatro its due importance. Rather, it reflects a shortage of funds available. The salaries are to be paid as soon as possible, as funds become available,” the note reads.
Léo Rodrigues reports from Agência Brasil  Edição:  Nádia Franco / Olga Bardawil
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira
Agência Brasil