Guardian’s ‘chorus of disapproval’ against ENO chiefs is misplaced

The newspaper has published an editorial that objects to the planned cuts in the chorus of English National Opera.

It likens the chorus singers to hospital doctors who are on strike today against an unfounded Government assault on their working hours and practices.

It adds: in both the NHS and the ENO, those in charge are making the same mistake. The goodwill of those who make the NHS and the ENO the institutions they are is being put at risk by picking on the people who provide the service. To restore harmony we need a chorus of disapproval against such mismanagement.

Well intentioned as it maybe, the editorial is simplistic, verging on Corbynistic.

Setting the NHS issue to one side, the ENO problem is not any ‘such mismanagement’. It is, if anything an excess of management, or meddling, by the company’s executives, its lacklustre board and a vindictive, unaccountable Arts Council England that wants to punish present administrators for the sins of their predecessors.

What ENO needs is not a chorus of disapproval but a show of support for its survival. Any disapproval should be directed not at the present managers but at the ACE, led by ENO’s former chairman.

Oddly, those culprits are not mentioned in the Guardian’s one-eyed editorial.

 

The Passenger by Mieczyslaw Weinberg

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  • When the Beano and the Dandy ceased publication, the Grauniad took over their role. The diet of tripe produced by its lacklustre team of witless hacks has as much influence on Britain’s psyche as graffiti scrawled in the bogs of a service station on the M62. Although the graffiti would probably be more correctly written.

    These days most of the Graun is ‘sponsored’ by the Carnegie Trust, the National Endowment for Democracy, and other neoliberal American shill sources.

  • It’s stupid to compare doctors with the eno singers and almost offensive. Doctors stay and do their job until it is done without overtime to save lives. Do musicians do the same? I’m not saying it’s wrong, but we have to remember what were talking about here. When a musician call time finishes they either leave or get overtime. We have great contracts and the strongest unions (all for good reasons), but don’t let us talk about goodwill. We will do wonderful things to raise funds and do things for charity from time to time, but are we really being honest about the current era?

    Contract musicians (I am one) do what we are asked to do so long as we are paid for it. We clock watch, we grumble, we we rarely do things that are extra or ontop without saying “how much?” and then complain when it all comes tumbling down and blame anyone in sight. I do it because I get paid a great salary to work under 30 hours a week and I can teach and do other work. That is why we all do it but I don’t think it works in the 21st century. The truth is we have the best conditions. We have worked very hard to get here at great expense and are the best at it, but let us all think abut more

    • Thanks for that refreshingly honest account of reality, much appreciated. It’s increasingly rare to hear musicians say what it’s really like, there’s this alarming tendency to imagine them all cocooned in some sort of artistic fantasy world. It’s a job, much like any other except that it has that artistic bonus, but I suspect you pay tax and national insurance much like your next door neighbour. Nice to hear such frankness and realism.

  • Yes it would seem to be unhelpful to blame or demonise those whose task it has become to try to solve pre-existing problems.

    The position of Chairman held by Vernon Ellis (now Chair of the British Council) was made available after his tenure ended in 2012. (He is proof that being associated with a management consultancy (Accenture) is not necessarily mutually exclusive of a genuine interest in and commitment to the arts. He continues to hold concerts at his own home, which he may have purchased with its ballroom in mind for using for precisely this function.)

    Then Bazalgette briefly took the position on, before leaving to the Arts Council (which he has now announced he is departing from).

    Then Martyn Rose took on the position, and left not too long after, apparently in disagreement with the Artistic Director. Henriette Gotz – who had been appointed as ‘Executive Director’ by Rose, left days after him.

    The Arts Council’s announced a cut in funding by 29% in 2014, and then placed ENO under “special funding arrangement” the following year, triggering the departure of both the then CEO and the Music Director. And last summer, the Artistic Director stepped down.

  • Yes it would seem to be unhelpful to automatically blame or demonise those now facing the task of trying to solve pre-existing problems.

    The position of Chairman held by Vernon Ellis (now Chair of the British Council) was made available after his tenure ended in 2012. (He is proof that being associated with a management consultancy (Accenture) is not necessarily mutually exclusive of a genuine interest in and commitment to the arts. He continues to hold concerts at his own home, which he may have purchased with its ballroom in mind for using for precisely this function.)

    Then Bazalgette briefly took the position on, before leaving to the Arts Council (which he has now announced he is departing from).

    Then Martyn Rose took on the position, and left not too long after, apparently in disagreement with the Artistic Director. Henriette Gotz – who had been appointed as ‘Executive Director’ by Rose, left days after him.

    The Arts Council’s announced a cut in funding by 29% in 2014, and then placed ENO under “special funding arrangement” the following year, triggering the departure of both the then CEO and the Music Director. And last summer, the Artistic Director stepped down.

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