English National Opera: Arts cuts will only make us stronger

English National Opera: Arts cuts will only make us stronger


norman lebrecht

July 03, 2014

A statement by artistic director, John Berry:




john berry

In a climate of decreasing public investment in the arts, an explosion of new technologies and changing audience expectations, every sensible company has been thinking creatively about how to make more with less. We knew we’d have to come up with a plan which protected our unique artistic qualities but at the same time make big changes where needed. This is what we have begun to do.

While it’s challenging to manage such a substantial reduction in our funding, we have been planning for this decision for some time. We are radically reinventing ourselves, and the Arts Council’s offer of transition funding is very welcome in helping us do this.

ENO won an Olivier Award two years ago for the breadth and diversity of our artistic programme and just last week we finished a smash-hit run of Terry Gilliam’s production of Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini. It is this type of adventurous project that defines ENO and the kind we want to do more of. We need to attract ever more diverse audiences, including more first-time opera-goers, to the “Coli”, as our home is affectionately known, and to the Barbican, the Young Vic, Bristol Old Vic and cinemas — all venues where you’ll see our work in the months and years ahead.

beneveuto cellini

We intend to carry on playing a key role in the London, UK and international arts scene and economy by collaborating with innovative British companies such as Improbable, Complicite and Fabulous Beast, London 2012 Olympic video artist 59 Productions and British artists such as Fiona Shaw, Richard Jones and Tom Morris. We will also continue to provide unique opportunities for new and established British singers, composers, conductors, directors and designers.

We will maintain our partnerships with 40 opera companies around the world — collaborations that have brought more than £20 million in investment to the UK over recent years and made it possible for London audiences to see exciting new work that without those partnerships would not have been made.

How are we going to do all that in the face of funding cuts? We’re going to be as creative off the stage as we are on it.

We’ve already formed collaborations with commercial partners willing to make substantial investments in ENO’s vision — such as Michael Grade and Michael Linnit, with whom we’ll begin producing large-scale, high-quality musical theatre next season, and with restaurant chain Benugo. The BFI and the British Museum have been transformed by Benugo and it is going to help us open up the Coliseum to visitors throughout the day. Plus we have the invaluable support of a network of friends, donors and partners and a whole heap of dedication from the incredibly talented people we have working in our team.

There’s more to do and maybe you won’t even notice the changes if your gaze is fixed on the performances on our stage. That’s how it should be. But behind the scenes we’ll be working hard to make sure ENO is fit for the future and our work is totally unmissable.

Because this isn’t about being a winner or a loser — it’s about making sure that everyone benefits from something that is so much more than a game.