ENO’s new season? A national betrayal, says Rupert…

ENO’s new season? A national betrayal, says Rupert…


norman lebrecht

April 22, 2015

Some 88 percent of singers and conductors at English National Opera next season are either British, British trained or UK resident. It says so in the press package.

But 88% is not enough for Rupert Christiansen in the Daily Telegraph, fulminating here of treason.

We were particularly struck by the Triastan and Isolde cast, which has a Skeltonand a Melton; a Cargill and a Colclough not to mention an English Rose. Must be fun being an ENO casting director.

eno group

Anish Kapoor designs a new production of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, directed by Daniel Kramer with Stuart Skelton and Heidi Melton in the title roles and British bass Matthew Rose as King Mark


  • DLowe says:

    I got the impression that he was focusing more on the ‘big’ parts, ie. leads, directors, conductors, than the body of the cast. He probably should have thought more deeply about the 88% but I see his point. And he certainly doesn’t sound like a xenophobe.

  • Martin Locher says:

    The Daily Telegraph. I always buy it at the airports to get a water bottle at a cheaper price. Looks like I haven’t missed much by not reading the last two I remember to have bought.

  • Anon says:

    I suppose it depends who’s benefit you think ENO is for. If you think of it as a refuge for British artists who can’t get enough work elsewhere, then this is maybe a let-down. But maybe it should be about bringing huge talent to a British audience, communicating with them in the native language? In which case, the nationality of the performers is irrelevant.

    ENO manages to do a good job of balancing these two extremes, and deserve to be applauded for it. Besides, what world-beating talent do the Brits have to offer? The names RC cites are excellent British singers for sure, but not (yet) really at the top of their league.

  • Anon says:

    ENO should be able to cast British singers in lead roles in at least some of their new productions. I’m not against bringing in international artists, but bringing in singers as Mimi, Adalgisa etc. doesn’t sit comfortably.

    I still have clear memories of Vivian Tierney as Katerina in 2001.

  • Derek Gleeson says:

    Hmmm. Why not just try programming works by English composers? Let’s see where that get them! 🙂

  • Sam McElroy says:

    General rule: at a national opera company, the first casting question should be, “Is there anyone from this country qualified to sing/direct/light/design this role/production at the artistic standard set by this company?” If so, hire them. If not, then look abroad. In the UK, with a deep well of world-class singers/directors/designers you should almost never need to look abroad.

    This simple rule generates work for locals, keeps accommodation and transport costs down, and – most importantly – allows singers to live as close to normal a family life as possible. And a happy singer is a good, healthy singer. There is so much unnecessary globe-trotting in an industry that can not afford it, and often does not require it to meet its own standards of excellence.

  • Owen says:

    ENO is an anachronism. In a pre-surtitle era, given the disinclination of most British people to learn other languages, the idea of an all-English-language company no doubt made complete commercial sense. Today however, its position as the second major subsidized Opera company in central London and flat-earth insistence on presenting popular standard works in translation – whilst entirely ignoring large sections of the English-language repertoire – together with the threadbare quality of many productions, raises serious questions as to the company’s true relevance or long-term viability. As such, the question of who they hire/don’t hire, or indeed their (self awarded) “National” status is entirely academic.