Antonio Pappano ‘rallies to ENO defence’

Antonio Pappano ‘rallies to ENO defence’


norman lebrecht

December 08, 2015

The Times published a letter this morning from Humphrey Burton about rumoured threats to the future of English National Opera. Not rumoured, actually. The Arts Council is anti-ENO, full stop.

We hear however that the Covent Garden music director is putting together a follow-up letter to try and get a Save ENO bandwaggon rolling.




Here’s Humphrey:


Sir, Rumours are swirling around the corridors of the British operatic world
that the chorus of English National Opera is under threat of emasculation,
perhaps even elimination, as happened a decade ago in Scotland.
Last Friday I attended ENO’s controversial new production of Verdi’s The
Force of Destiny. Certain aspects of the show could be criticised, but there
was universal admiration for the powerful contribution made by the chorus
under ENO’s dynamic new music director Mark Wigglesworth. Energy, power,
clarity: all were there in spades; in nearly 70 years of opera-going I’ve
never heard better choral singing.
I don’t think it’s going too far to argue that it would be cultural
vandalism to sacrifice ENO’s splendid chorus on the altar of economy. Such
radical proposals should be publicly discussed in advance of
decision-taking. Public opinion forced a rethink on tax credits; why not on
opera house cuts, too?
Humphrey Burton
Former head of music and arts at BBC Television




  • Eddie Mars says:

    It’s been the wet dream of the Eton Elite to close down ENO and merge it with the ROH – for well over 15 years now. The appeal of the idea is enormous – to philistines and chavs, of course. Having any opera house is bad enough for ignorant morons like Eric Pickles – but having TWO is just waving a red rag to a bull.

    Congratulations to Tony Pappano, then, for refusing to go along with the oafs like Pickles, and saying he won’t have any part of such knuckledragging crassness.

    This hasn’t stopped the Eton Boys from stuffing all the vote-bearing posts at the Arts Council with their own loyal toadies, of course.

    This doesn’t absolve ENO of the responsibility to fill its seats with shows the public is thronging to see. But the daft notion of crowd-pleasing platitudes – more Carmens and Traviatas – has proven a dead loss at the box office. It’s been Nixon In China and The Damnation of Faust that have played to packed, non-discounted houses.

    • DLowe says:

      Comments steeped in inverted snobbery do nothing other than weaken the argument for ENO and are intellectually lazy. I find the juxtaposition of “Eton Elite” and Pickles bizarre. The man went to a grammar school and then a polytechnic.

      • Halldor says:

        Indeed – a bizare and ignorant comment. Gove and Osborne are devoted Wagnerites and Covent Garden regulars, and have been seen at Longborough; the PM is patron of Bampton Opera. We currently have the most demonstrably opera-loving cabinet in recent memory.

        Meanwhile the official opposition has just appointed a Shadow Culture Secretary who’s on the record as saying funds to London opera houses should be cut and reallocated to brass bands. Seriously: not joking.

        • Eddie Mars says:

          The ignorance is flowing entirely from your direction.

          But I suppose the idea that your pet Eton thugs patronise the ROH while seeing no reason to keep ENO open was too muxh of an intellectual challenge for you.

          Opera-loving? Champagne-quaffing, more like.

          • Dominic Stafford Uglow says:

            Oh dear, the same disinformation about the Labour Party. The presentation given this summer was very clear. Under Corbyn’s plans there would be much more money for ALL the arts. And increased funding for arts education. And he specifically mentioned opera.

          • DLowe says:

            You’re doing it again – “pet Eton thugs”. How can someone who (nobly) makes the case for London having a second opera house use such fundamentally ugly and low language? Stick to the facts, and make your case, preferably without mentioning Eton.

            As for Corbyn, I was impressed when in the leadership election, he alone of the candidates gave time for the arts. I haven’t yet seen much on that since he was elected.

  • Peter Phillips says:

    Most politicians are musical philistines and do not know or care that ENO has a fine chorus and, under Mark Wigglesworth, an orchestra to match (eg Lady Macbeth). The ROH, however, acts as a kind of cultural virility symbol for those who are both ignorant and indifferent to opera but need to be seen in prestigious places. What they made of Mahagony goodness knows – Wigglesworth again as it happens. ENO is worth travelling from South Wales for and I’m certainly not the only one who does.

    • Dominic Stafford Uglow says:

      If they sustain the standard in the pit and the chorus that was shown in the Lady Macbeth, we could be talking about ENO as a major world company before long. I don’t think anyone who attended a performance would feel that was hyperbole. I’ve been in this business all my life. The first night performance I attended was hair-raising – and for all the right reasons.