What has changed at English National Opera? The language

What has changed at English National Opera? The language


norman lebrecht

September 25, 2015

A message from new chief executive Cressida Pollock on ‘some of the exciting changes that are happening at ENO’:

cressida pollock

You will notice a few changes in the way that our brand looks and feels.

We have been looking at how we express the ENO brand, whether through the way that we look and the way that we write and speak, and also through our culture and the way we behave.

After some fantastic work by the team, and contributions from supporters, stakeholders and the public, we have gently updated our brand to reflect our renewed commitment to placing our audiences at the heart of everything we do.

You will see more of this in coming months – in the theatre, in our advertising and online. We hope you like these changes as we redouble our efforts to attract new audiences to opera, whilst taking care of our loyal patrons and customers. 

Ms Pollock, 33, is a McKinsey’s management consultant who speaks and thinks jargon. No head of any other opera house on earth would talk of ‘expressing the brand’ or put ‘stakeholders’ before the paying public.

This unhappy new ENO puts image before art.


  • Alexandra Ivanoff says:

    Hate the word “brand.” It reeks of the stench of global capitalism.
    Also, how about putting “ART at the heart of everything we do.” ??

  • Jonathan M. Dunsby says:

    Yes, it is all frightful McKinsey speak. But Ms P can also be very incisive, see this from report from her earlier days;


  • Guus Mostart says:

    It seems Ms. Pollock is just what the Arts Council demands: reducing the role of ENO. The late Dennis Marks warned us over twenty years ago that this was going to happen. Shame.

  • Charles Clark-Maxwell says:

    I know her brother Rufus. He founded Open Knowledge as a very young man and is unbelievably intelligent. I’m convinced his little sister is equally smart and can bring great skills to ENO

  • Halldor says:

    Standard-issue marketing-speak. And it’s far more widespread in the arts than just ENO. Marketers have started to think of themselves as a pseudo-profession, complete with exclusive jargon and a blind belief in the power of their own qualifications. A major UK orchestra recently had a marketing chief who – on starting the job – hadn’t heard of Mozart or Haydn and pronounced Beethoven “Beefoven”. Thankfully that organisation had a constant stream of bright, musically educated interns on minimum wage to correct their work before it reached the public.

    But yes, it’s a glorious irony that people who call themselves “communications professionals” are, more and more, incapable of speaking comprehensibly to an audience outside of their own tiny professional sphere. That said – ENO’s new posters on the tube are attractive and actually tell you something about the opera; I’ve heard only good things.

  • Eddie Mars says:

    The work of the 1st violins duplicates that of the Leader – this is wasteful. Some microphones and downsizing are in order.

    The English National Opera Chorus is now renamed the ENO Barbershop Quartet.

    Let us make it quite clear that ENO is a C-Major organisation. Orchestral players (trumpets, clarinets, we are talking about you) who cannot be bothered to change their outmoded Bb and Eb instruments will be dealt with severely. To comply with EU Opera Directive OP344/2554/2014 ENO only performs operas in C-Major (including works in minor keys). You just have to get with it, or be left behind.

    Operas which are unfair or unjust to bankers will be rewritten. A new Happy End for La Boheme has been commissioned, in which Mimi marries Alcindoro, while Rodolfo is given the short-back-and-sides the young whippersnapper needed long ago, and three years National Service. We also have plans to rename another of Puccini’s works (in C-major, of course) as ‘Yamadori, The Good Banker Of Nagasaki’.

    Artistic Direction? Piffle! Nothing a merchant banker couldn’t pick up in an afternoon training course.

  • Simon S. says:

    Oh, when Kathy Wagner (no McK-past, AFAIK) took over in Bayreuth, she stated that her main profssional challenge was to improve the Festival’s marketing – the Festival was 10 times overbooked at that time.

  • Peter Phillips says:

    I was quite looking forward to seeing Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk next week. All this negativity is making me wonder whether it will be OK or whether we re wasting our money.

    • Eddie Mars says:

      Lady Mac was cast and organised under the previous management – you should be fine. Cherniakov is certain to find the ghoulish macabre qualities in the piece, and you’ve got John Daszak and Graeme Danby to look forward to. Sadly I’m thousands of miles away that week :((

  • theatreguyMike says:

    I was at the dress rehearsal of Lady Macbeth this week and Ms Pollock introduced the performance. Far from speaking jargon, she made interesting comments about the company, its relationship with its audiences and indeed where the money comes from. This followed another interesting and revealing interview in the Times this week with Mark Wigglesworth, the new music director of ENO, explaining the changes which have been taking place at the ENO.

    I find Ms Pollock’s language perfectly acceptable and not at all jargon. It’s intelligent plain speaking and I find no objection to the fickle “public” being mentioned after important “supporters” and no doubt necessary “stakeholders”, whoever they are.

    Maybe objections are being made to Ms Pollock because of her background, her occupation, and perhaps because she is a woman. She seems to be just the sort of person the ENO needs to try to resolve its current problems.

    You can’t please all the people all of the time, but certainly the ENO needs to redress the problem of adventurous productions attracting small audiences, popular musicals alienating opera buffs, and a popular repertoire only attracting an elderly group of staid opera goers.

    If Ms Pollock and Mr Wigglesworth, with their combined skills at business management and music presentation, can bring the ENO back to a combination of prosperity and operatic excellence then their salaries are well deserved.