Spanish state broadcaster RTVE says it plans to dissolve its symphony orchestra and choir for four months of the year in order to save money.
Under the new plan, the RTVE Symphony Orchestra's 150 musicians and singers will only work between October and May — the eight months for which season tickets are available at its Teatro Monumental base in Madrid.
The broadcaster justifies the move on the fact it has suffered a 250-million-euro cut to its budget over the last two years.
But as orchestra members point out, musicians, like soccer players, need a pre-season in which to practice. They are constantly working to refine their repertoire and four months out could jeopardize the cohesion of the group. "A professional orchestra cannot be out of work for a third of the year," says Eneida García Garijo, a contralto in the choir. "It makes our work unfeasible and is a prelude to its disappearance.
"My activity is annual. My work is also what I do in those other months," she adds.
Cellist Luis José Ruiz predicts that the move is guaranteed to prompt an "exodus" and "we will be condemned to extinction."
He also points out that with an annual budget of 11 million euros, the orchestra — which was created in 1965 by then minister of information and tourism, Manuel Fraga — is one of the cheapest in Spain.