The Hon Jesse Norman, MP
House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee
Dear Jesse Norman
Sorry to be a few days late in congratulating you on the committee chairmanship. Your father, Torquil, who restored the Roundhouse as an arts centre, must be so proud.
I am writing in the matter of English National Opera, urging you to call an inquiry into its present lamentable decapitation – no chairman, chief executive or artistic director, and an incoming music director who’s feeling rather abandoned. How did a national treasure get into that deplorable situation?
Briefly, under its last short-term chairman, Peter Bazalgette, ENO ran up a huge debt. Bazalgeete moved swiftly on to become chairman of Arts Council England where – with a sinner’s arrogance – he has been pressuring ENO to sack its artistic director, John Berry, whom he blamed for the overspend – and for other executive departures.
John Berry resigned on Friday. He’s your first witness.
This has been an appalling saga of administrative negligence in the face of artistic vision. The Arts Council needs to be called to account, not just Bazalgette (who is required to leave the room when ENO is discussed) but the former chief executive Alan Davey who played the Wolfgang Schäuble role in the ball-squeezing scenario. The ACE has been party to a putsch.
Your next witness should be the former music director, Edward Gardner, who was caught in a vice of international pressures. Followed by Henriette Götz, who lasted less than a year as executive director. More heads have rolled than anywhere outside IS control.
The full story of backroom threats and boardroom helplessness needs to be aired if ENO is to recover its rightful place as the people’s opera house. Call an inquiry, please. Call Slipped Disc if you need more information.