Peter Jonas: Europe is amazed at attacks on ENOmain
Here is the full text of the letter by Sir Peter Jonas, published by the Times newspaper today in an edited form.
Here in Europe there is astonishment at the threat to ENO, its artists and support staff. ENO’s orchestra, chorus, principals and backstage workers are the company. ENO’s only other resource and asset is the freehold of the Coliseum. At the end of my eight-year tenure as the company’s General Director, in 1993, the board delegated me to purchase the theatre’s freehold from the estate of Robert Holmes-à-Court. Together with Lord Harewood, our chairman, Lord Carr and Nicholas Goodison, our vice chairmen, we secured the Coliseum for the nation in order to underpin ENO’s future for UKL 12.4 million. The funds were raised with the help of the then arts minister David Mellor directly from government with £1m from the National Lottery. An extra million was generously donated by the late Garfield Weston to kick start renovation of the building. The Arts Council did not provide a penny and, perhaps out of pique, demanded a charge be put on the freehold whereby if ENO should cease to exist in its present form as a full time company presenting opera and ballet, the freehold could be appropriated by the Council.
The present attempt by the Arts Council to cut down the already reduced ENO chorus and orchestra, thereby reducing the output of performances, could lead to the Council attempting to call in the charge on the freehold of the Coliseum thus destroying ENO as a company and, in plain English, stealing its assets by taking advantage of a weak board and inexperienced management.
The Arts Council was founded to be a chosen advocate for the arts not to govern artistic
institutions, dictate artistic policy or act as a property speculator without public consultation.
Sir Peter Jonas CBE
General Director, ENO 1985-1993
Intendant, Bavarian State Opera, Munich 1993-2006