Why do we bother with ENO?

Why do we bother with ENO?


norman lebrecht

April 07, 2016

An avowed lover of English National Opera (and a former singer, it appears) has posted a long, thoughtful and anonymous reflection on all that has passed at the company over the past 40 years, bringing it to the present crisis.

The author has allowed Slipped Disc to republish it under his name, Jonathan Peel. He makes a lot of cogent points and we will not cherry-pick them for rapid reading.

Just sample the opening paragraph and you will judge his serious intent.

So, why do we bother?  Why are so many people incensed at the actions of ACE in devising a rescue plan for ENO that involves reducing the number of performances and performers, rather than seeking other ways to cut costs?  It isn’t that this apparently elitist art form has to pay an inordinate wages bill to the chorus after all even with a 4 singer reduction in  numbers from 44 to 40. The introduction of a forced layoff for 3 months a year is hardly going to replace the £5 million pound cut in subsidy, nor is it going to achieve any part of restoring this once great company to a level of fiscal security and prosperity. 

Now read on here.


Benevenuto Cellini at ENO


  • Julian Reynolds says:

    A very well written article. That’s a good point about the sheer size of the building

  • John Groves says:

    There is so much that is, all too sadly, true here, and, as Julian says, a really well thought out article. The big question is: what to do??!

  • Nick says:

    Interesting that she began her singing career at Scottish Opera and that many of the artists who were her heroes and heroines also sang at Scottish Opera. Sadly we all know what happened to that once revered company which also toured Europe more regularly and the “provinces” even more regularly than ENO. It seems the faceless bureaucrats and politicians will always win.

  • James Black says:

    Well written article in many ways:? A few corrections for the record (at the risk of seeming pedantic): Gwynerh Jones’ only London run as Isolde was conducted by Colin Davis not Georg Solti, Valerie Masterson never sang Natasha at ENO (or anywhere else) and it’s Ann not Anne Murray.

  • David Nice says:

    Wouldn’t Valerie Masterson have made a marvellous Natasha, though (it was Felicity Lott in the production I was a bit too young to catch)? I listened to her ENO Violetta on Chandos the other day and was amazed by the strength of feeling behind it. Lovely lady. Well argued article, too – though I wonder if retrospectives on the wonder of ENO over the years (which I’d gladly add my voice to) aren’t putting nails in the coffin of its future, which is still to be fought over.

    Anybody else seen John Allison’s attack on Mark Wigglesworth in Opera Magazine? I haven’t, but I hear it’s full of palpable untruths. Why don’t people within the ‘industry’ realise that we have enough battles to fight as a small band without internal denigration? And no, Norman, I don’t think there’s anything disappointing about the current London concert scene.

    • Eddie Mars says:

      Worth mentioning, perhaps, that the gutsy Australian soprano Eileen Hannan alternated in the role of Natasha at ENO, and went on tour in the role. She was a stalwart at the Coli in the 1970s and 1980s, excelling in Lyric Soprano roles (also Mimi, Rusalka, Governess/TotS, and many others).