Why Mark Wigglesworth quit ENO

Why Mark Wigglesworth quit ENO


norman lebrecht

March 22, 2016

The music director of English National Opera has been threatening to resign all season, sometimes on a weekly basis. It is not easy being in charge at a company that is being progressively shrunk by Arts Council diktat, operating without an artistic director who might sensibly mitigate or redirect the cuts.

Those close to Mark urged him consistently not to resign. He had damaged his career once before by walking out of La Monnaie in Brussels.

What’s more, ENO seemed to be resolving its problems with chorus and orchestra and setting out its future with some gusto.  Only last week, the chorus declared itself content with the new deal.

The problem, though, was that in a diminished future there is less for a music director to do, at music director level. The productions that were offered to Mark were uninteresting revivals. One was a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. He was unhappy with the prospects and he did not care who knew. There may have been additional causes, but he’s not saying.

So he jumped.

With bad timing.

On a day when all news is overshadowed by the Brussels atrocity.

He had been in the job for less than a year.

Mark Wigglesworth

UPDATE: What next at ENO?

ENO’s statement:

We regret to confirm the announcement that Mark Wigglesworth feels unable to continue as Music Director despite the best efforts of the Board and Senior Management to persuade him to remain. We are disappointed that he will not stay to lead the artistic forces through this particularly challenging period. Mark has agreed that he will continue as Music Director until the end of the season and will then return as a Visiting Conductor in the 2016/17 season. Mark is a world class conductor and we look forward to welcoming him back as guest conductor in future years.

Mark’s PR:

Mark Wigglesworth has today resigned as Music Director of English National Opera, effective from the end of the current season. He will continue to honour his contractual commitments as a conductor and looks forward to continuing to work with the wonderful musicians of ENO.




Mark Wigglesworth is not commenting further at this time.


  • Al says:

    What a shame! The operas he has conducted this season have been quite exceptional. At this critical time for the company, musical leadership of the highest order is needed. However the direction the management is taking makes it more tricky to find someone of the calibre of either Ed Gardner or Mark Wigglesworth. I really fear for the future of a company which has been a very important part of the British operatic scene.

    • Peter Phillips says:

      Wigglesworth’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was very fine; I’d travelled from South Wales to see it and was happy to have made the journey. Likewise The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny though that, of course, was at the house a few streets away. The trouble is that he rarely seems to stay anywhere for long; he left the BBCNOW prematurely, then La Monnaie and now ENO. The place would have been stronger for his staying and toughing it out. – See more at: https://slippedisc.com/2016/03/enos-new-mantra-not-pricey-not-posh/#sthash.eKdW06Tq.dpuf

  • Nick says:

    Awful timing from Wigglesworth! After the Monnaie walkout how may other opera companies will now consider him for an MD post? I cannot help but wonder that an experienced and respected CEO might have persuaded him to hold off at least for a few months.

  • V Scott says:

    His abandonment at such a difficult time everywhere for music will not stand well for him. Maybe he will go to the US as there are not many big jobs left in the UK for MD’s.
    In the current climate I would count myself lucky to have a job at ENO. He could have coasted for a year and made plans for when things pick up – they always do – but patience is required. Then he would have been lauded for bringing ENO through a difficult time, opening up other better opportunities. Shame no one could make him see that…..

  • David Nice says:

    Your facts are incorrect. Maybe ask a musician in the company. I don’t think you’ll find any who don’t admire his stance these past few months.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Your version of events is very limited. Every item in this report is double sourced.

      • David Nice says:

        From where? Better limited and correct in building on what can be established than wide of the mark. It is totally untrue to chuck out the idea that MW left because he thinks G&S is above him. Untrue. I challenge you to find any artist within the company – and I’m not talking about management – who doesn’t admire him as a conductor and as a human being.

        • sarah connolly says:

          I totally agree with David. Norman your comments are unhelpful and plain wrong.

          • norman lebrecht says:

            Sarah, I think your perspective is too narrow. You are only taking in one stream of information in a complex situation and that cannot be helpful for the company we all seek to sustain.

  • Peter Phillips says:

    Nevertheless, David, people will look at his record of resigning and maybe have second thoughts about appointing him to a permanent position eg ROH when Papanno (spelling?) moves on. It is good that MW is a man of strong principle but pragmatism has its moment too. Happily, I think that he has worked with the BBCNOW again recently; I hope it went well because he ought to be one of our leading conductors and in a central post.

  • David Nice says:

    Probably the facts will speak for themselves. ENO has not had better conducted performances than those of Lady Macbeth, Force of Destiny and The Magic Flute this season. And every artist within the company I’ve spoken to worships the ground he walks on – even prefers him to Gardner, who did excellent work. He is also an honourable human being too, Are you telling me that won’t wash with managements?

    At least this is some kind of debate. Scattergun, unresearched accusations such as pop up on Slipped Disc whenever I check in (rarely) do a lot of harm.

  • Jeremy says:

    The problems stem from non musicians being in senior management posts. How can they possibly understand the problems. Nobody should be considered for these posts without a thorough understanding of Opera!

    • Eddie Mars says:

      And in parallel with that, the blank incomprehension among the Belindas and Henrys at the Arts Council that professionally qualified and experienced people in opera companies are capable of running things without Management Consultant (with no experience of either opera, or management) to run things for them (((

  • Eddie Mars says:

    With rumours running rife that an AD appointment has already been made at ENO – although no sign of the actual person – it looks increasingly likely that Mark Wigglesworth’s abrupt exit was linked to not being made the AD himself.

    • David Nice says:

      Not true. He was longing for an Artistic Director to work with. Though in effect he has provided the only leadership in the past month or so – and wasn’t respected or listened to by the CEO. In any case who would want this post while it means being subservient to Cressida Pollock, who has shown no vision at all in her plans, just diminishment. Don’t believe the spin that ‘we looked at every other possible option’ – also not true.

      • Jeremy says:

        Cressida Pollock’s appointment was madness. She has absolutely no experience of Opera!

        • Eddie Mars says:

          Well, we’ve reached the Easter Bank Holiday Weekend, and still no news of an Artistic Director appointment.

          If we needed any further proof that Cressida Bollocks is entirely incompetent and unable to lead ENO, we’ve been given it.

        • sarah connolly says:


    • sarah connolly says:

      Completely and utterly untrue. Mark resigned before knowing who the AD is to be, so that it would not be a comment on the appointment.

  • Eddie Mars says:

    Well, another week down the line – and still no announcement of an Artistic Director, or even a (mis-)Management Announcement as to why no appointment has yet been made.

    Incompetence doesn’t come more flagrant than this.

    She has to go.