Today’s extraordinary, unanimous declaration of support for English National Opera’s embattled chief was not just a matter of collegial solidarity and personal friendship. For weeks, frowns have been forming on the brows of opera planners the world over as to what would happen if Berry was sacked.
Put simply, John Berry has made ENO indispensanble to world opera by acting as a staging post and clearing house for new productions. The Metropolitan Opera trials new shows at the Coliseum before they go to New York. So does Bavarian State Opera, Madrid and many more. London, through Berry, has become an opera hub as never before.
The only people who failed to notice ENO’s significant role were certain members of Arts Council England and several on Berry’s own board, some of whom had personal axes to grind. ACE slashed his funding; the board tried to fire him.
That’s when the alrm bells started ringing around the opera world. We understand that the twin leaders of the Berry fightback were Peter Gelb at the Met and Alexander Neef at Canadian Opera Company.
One European chief they contacted wrote back: ‘No need to show me the statement. If it supports John, sign it in my name.’
This has been a wakeup day for opera managers and funders. Let’s hope ENO’s new acting CEO can put the house in order.