Eliana Pretorian, a soprano who has regularly performed at Glyndeborne and Sadlers Wells, said an agreement made when she was just 17 had “derailed” her personal and professional life, leaving her fearing she could be jailed. Now, years after she became embroiled in legal disputes to overturn the deal, a judge has ruled a case against her was “doomed to failure”, with an application to commit her to jail “wholly without merit”.
UK-based Pretorian appeared at the Royal Courts of Justice after Romanian businessman Ion Vasile applied for her committal to prison for alleged contempt of court for failing to provide him with financial details of her earnings, The case has its origins in a deal said to have been struck between Miss Pretorian’s father and Mr Vasile in 1999, which the businessman claimed entitled him to a share of her future earnings as a singer in return for financing her music studies. As she was 17, Miss Pretorian’s father is said to have agreed on her behalf to pay Mr Vasile 35 per cent of her professional income – ‘earned in such ten years as he might choose’ – in return for a $6,900 (£4,400) contribution to the cost of her musical training. Vasile was said to be a friend of her fathers at the time.
Interestingly, Independent Opera explain her education thus: “Eliana Pretorian was born in Romania and after studying choreography and universal languages, she received a singing scholarship to the National Academy of Music in Bucharest. In 2001 she was awarded a full scholarship to the RCM in London kindly supported by the Sacher Trust, The Wall Trust and Mr. and Mrs. Hayes Scholarship Award. After graduating with First Class Honors she went on to study at the National Opera Studio”.
Now aged 31 and pregnant, Miss Pretorian tried to have the agreement overturned but the Romanian courts rejected her case in February 2009 and ordered her to pay Mr Vasile his legal costs.
But Judge Richard Seymour QC threw out the case, ruling that it was ‘doomed to failure’. He said Miss Pretorian had not breached any undertaking to fully disclose her earnings and that she could not be punished ‘for failing to do something she was not obliged to do’. By mid-December last year, Miss Pretorian had done all that was required of her, he said. Judge Seymour added: ‘What was unexplained was why, that having happened, the decision was taken – by or on behalf of Mr Vasile – to pursue the application for committal’ saying ‘It is manifest that the application to commit is wholly without merit.’
He ordered Mr Vasile, who was not in court, to pay £6,525 in legal costs. Outside court, mother-of-one Miss Pretorian said she felt the deal was ‘immoral to the root’. She claimed she had gained little from it and achieved success through her own efforts. Her barrister, Paul Stadden, attacked the deal as ‘usurious’ It had overshadowed her ever since, even after she won a prestigious scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music, she said. She added: ‘It nearly destroyed my life. It was never a question of him discovering me or his money being vital to my career.’