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‘Art against austerity’: Paris Opera gives free street performance amid strikes over pension reform

‘Art against austerity’: Paris Opera gives free street performance amid strikes over pension reform
Paris Opera musicians on strike over unpopular pension reform plans proposed by the French government delighted passers-by with a free New Year’s Eve concert on the steps outside the Bastille opera house.

In the Tuesday evening show, the musicians performed classics like the Dance of the Night from Sergei Prokofiev’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and Damnation of Faust by Hector Berlioz, as well as offering a rousing rendition of La Marseillaise, France's national anthem.

The striking musicians are covered by one of France's 42 individual pension schemes, which President Emmanuel Macron's government is trying to streamline into one cohesive system. Under the new plan, opera employees would lose their right to early retirement.

One musician told the crowd before the free concert began that opera employees "still refuse to participate in any parody of negotiations," France24 reported.

The proposed reforms have sparked major unrest and travel chaos as transport workers also went on strike demanding that the government abandon the new scheme. Some demonstrations have also turned violent, as protesters clashed with police.

The opera strike has led to the cancellation of dozens of December performances at both the Bastille and Garnier opera houses and at least €8 million in lost revenue.

"We refuse to be the gravediggers of our own retirement system," the musicians said.

On Christmas Eve, a group of 27 ballet dancers also protested the reforms, performing a piece from Swan Lake on the steps of the Garnier Opera. Banners reading ‘Opera de ‘Paris Opera on strike’ and ‘Culture in danger’ hung in the background.

Demonstrators against the pension reform joined the Yellow Vests protesters on Saturday, in a joint effort to defy Macron's unpopular government. Trade unions have kept up their strike over the Christmas period, and it is now entering its fourth week.

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