Flemish opera and ballet fuse into “Kunsthuis”

Summary

The merger of the Flemish Opera and the Royal Ballet of Flanders is complete. From autumn, the new organisation will be called Kunsthuis

Merger becomes Flanders’ biggest cultural institution

The Flemish Opera and the Royal Ballet of Flanders have completed their long-planned merger. From this year’s autumn season, the new joint venture will be known as Kunsthuis (Art House).

“Ballet and opera are both art forms that bring many interdisciplinary arts together, and the Kunsthuis stands for the things that bind the two,” said Assis Carreiro, artistic director of the ballet. The merged organisations will form a strong basis not only for the two companies to survive, she said, but also “to blossom and to achieve their full potential”.

The new fusion will continue to have a double home in Antwerp and in Ghent, with plans to perform in other parts of Flanders more in the future, as well as touring internationally. Aside from the joint name Kunsthuis, the separate companies will also be known in English as Opera Flanders and Royal Ballet Flanders.

The culture ministry’s decision to fuse the region’s ballet and opera, based on budget considerations, faced criticism when it was announced in 2010. It led to the departure of the ballet’s artistic director Kathryn Bennetts, an Australian choreographer who was credited with completely transforming the ballet’s reputation as a small, regional player to that of one of the finest companies in Europe.

“The best conditions to make it all function are when there are at least adequate funds,” Bennetts said in an interview after her departure in 2012. “If a company is always scrimping for money, then incredible tensions arise throughout the whole organisation.

Kunsthuis now becomes Flanders’ largest cultural institution, with an annual budget of €35 million, €24.5 million of it coming from the Flemish government. That includes an additional €791,000 subsidy announced yesterday by culture minister Joke Schauvliege.

The new organisation is headed by Lena De Meerleer, who was previously director of productions at the Flemish public broadcaster VRT, where she had spent 30 years. Her first job at Kunsthuis will be to negotiate a new management agreement with the government, as well as new employment contracts for the staff.

Flemish Opera and the Royal Ballet of Flanders complete long-planned merger. From this autumn, the new organisation will be called Kunsthuis.

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Flemish Opera

The Flemish Opera is Flanders’ only opera company. It boasts one choir, one orchestra and two opera houses, one in Ghent and one in Antwerp.
Recognition - The Flemish government has recognised the Flemish Opera as a “Grote Vlaamse Cultuurinstelling” (Great Flemish Cultural Institution).
Two - The Flemish Opera was born from the merger of the Vlaamse Opera Antwerpen and the Vlaamse Opera Ghent.
History - Operas have been staged in Antwerp since 1660 and in Ghent since the late 16th century.
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