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Why has English National Opera got an all-American team?

November 14, 2017 by norman lebrecht

26 comments.


ENO’s forthcoming world premiere, Marnie, is by an American composer, Nico Muhly.

Its title role is sung by an American, Sasha Cooke.

The director, Michael Mayer, is American.

As is the set and projections designer, Julian Crouch.

And the costume designer, Arianne Phillips.

And the lighting designer, Kevin Adams.

In short, the entire production team are US imports apart from the music director, Martin Brabbins.

Why not just rename it the American National Opera?

It’s a madly insensitive act of team selection at a time when ENO is arguing it remains essential to UK culture.


Comments (26)

  1. mr oakmountain says:

    Is this the same blog that keeps attacking the VPO for not having enough foreigners in their ranks?

    1. John Borstlap says:

      That is different, because it is Vienna.

      1. mr oakmountain says:

        Sorry. Slow on the uptake …

  2. Ungeheuer says:

    How did they get work visas? Aren’t these usually granted if no continentals, meaning personnel from the EU, or nationals can be found to have the required skills?

    1. John Borstlap says:

      It always seemed to me that British people, especially in the arts, feel closer to the USA than to the continent which creates trouble most of the time. The Channel is wider than the Atlantic.

      1. Edgar says:

        The UK is already for quite some time the 51st state of its former colony in all but name. Tiny Atlantic Strait and vast Channel Ocean, indeed.

  3. Cynical Bystander says:

    On it’s way to the MET?

    1. Marnay says:

      Yea, right? A co-pro with the Met wouldn’t make an American team that strange.

      While we are on the topic — there are always tons of Brits working at the Met, in artistic and administrative roles. So it’s not a one-sided phenomenon.

    2. trolley80 says:

      Shh, we don’t want anyone to think this piece or anything else on this site is written from a place of dumbfounding ignorance

  4. Dominic Stafford Uglow says:

    Part of this is could easily be explained by the input of the American Friends of English National Opera. They contribute generously to the company and, sometimes, their money is used for projects such as this, that will travel back to the US, if they are deemed successful enough.

    Whilst you are crowing, you should perhaps remember that, if this is saleable to a number of US companies, then the profits of those sales will go into the coffers of English National Opera.

    It also forms one side of a two-way street. English National Opera would be very wise, for example, to bring in Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell’s new opera Elizabeth Cree – which was a resounding success recently and is based on Peter Ackroyd’s Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem. It got tremendous reviews on its premiere in Philadelphia.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      That Puts opera seems to be on the usual sordid and trivial theme:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67bToXRihsI

      …. but the music is NORMAL, expressive and lyrical, and well-made:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiQyjNKDleU

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QnUJdIwhaQ

      In Europe, such return towards a traditional attitude is still rare, so it is questionable whether Puts would be performed in England.

      1. Dominic Stafford Uglow says:

        The theme isn’t sordid or trivial. The source work is a critically-lauded novel by one of the most prominent English-language novelists of the second half of the C20th. It intertwines profound themes: gender, technology, theism, superstition, the urban poor, abuse and psychiatric illness. But you haven’t read the book, have you? You’ve done what you usually do. Googled it, then let your prejudice do the rest.

  5. Jason Southgate says:

    Julian Crouch is actually English, but he now lives in America. Think you need a better researcher…

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      ENO website: Julian Crouch is a Brooklyn, NY-based director, designer, writer, maker, teacher, illustrator and musician, whose career has spanned theatre, opera, ballet, film and television.

      1. George says:

        Jeez – I can’t believe we’re having to point out the difference between “US-based” and “US-born”. Julian Crouch was born in the UK. So with Mr Crouch and Mr Brabbins being British, your headline is moot (“All American Team”). Oh, and Movement Director, Lynne Page, is both a member of the creative team and from Leicester.

        And when it comes to ENO’s place in UK culture – both this production and others in the season are packed-full of British and ENO-nurtured talent as far as I can tell.

        1. trolley80 says:

          Counterpoint: I can totally believe it

      2. Jason Southgate says:

        If you google Julien Crouch you will see he’s English, he now lives in NY and you failed to mention Lynne Page who’s movement director is English.

  6. Halldor says:

    British librettist, British orchestra, British chorus – for what this sort of “blood and soil” nonsense is worth. I thought only those frightful Brexiteers were supposed to be Little Englanders.

    1. Furzwängler says:

      Frightful Brexiteers? By gad Sir, what a cheek!

      1. Halldor says:

        Ah, but chat to any member of London’s arts community – over a chilled glass of Veuve in the Floral Hall, say – and they will make it perfectly clear to you that this sort of attitude is the sole preserve of the ghastly unwashed, darling.

        1. Furzwängler says:

          Ah, but chat to any member of London‚Äôs arts community ‚Äď over a chilled glass of Veuve in the Floral Hall, say ‚Äď and they will make it perfectly clear to you that this sort of attitude is the sole preserve of the ghastly unwashed, darling.

          Dear boy, I’d rather sit through an evening of Stockhausen, Leibowitz and Nono than share a glass of anything in Covent Garden with the supercilious, self-regarding,up-their-own-backsides arty community of LibDim-voting North London Remtards.

  7. redactatore says:

    The “problem” it seems began with Alfred Hitchcock himself — Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie, don’t cha know — as he was British, but then became a U.S. citizen.

    1. Halldor says:

      But the opera is based (Muhly has said so) not on Hitchcock’s film, but on the novel by Winston Graham – born in Manchester, died in London, lived in Susex, awarded an OBE, created “Poldark”. Doesn’t get more English than that.

  8. Vienna calling says:

    The production is commissioned and co-produced by the Metropolitan Opera i.e. shared cost, shared personnel. Why should a handful of American work permits be an issue in an open-minded and cosmopolitan place like London?

  9. Peter Owen says:

    I’m sure if the opera is a great success none of this will matter at all.
    But, if. on the other hand…………………………………………………..


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