The good news from ENO: They’re getting out of town

Apart from finding the money to increase its output of new shows, the best omen in English National Opera’s new season is a strategy to take the company out of the West End – and out of London altogether.

The idea is to divide the year into autumn and spring seasons at the London Coliseum, with a summer tour of venues around London and out into the rest of the country.

In Summer 2017, this company will present shows at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, the Hackney Empire and the Southbank Centre.

Blackpool breaches a long-standing Arts Council ban on ENO playing outside London. t’s a shrewd place to stage Mikado for the summer crowds and it fills a notable gap in an area the ACE has neglected for decades. ENO needs to get out more if it is to be a truly national company once again.

That’s the crumb of good news. Much of the rest is camouflage. Playing an oratorio the South Bank won’t change much, and most of the next season is – contrary to first perceptions – revivals. This is going to be a tread-water season while an inexperienced artistic director settles in and starts the search for a music director.

The new shows – just four of them – are:



(Co-pro with Theater Basel) Sep 30, Oct 4, 7, 13, 15, 18, 21, 24, 26 at 19.00 & Oct 9 at 15.00

Director: Richard Jones, Conductor: Mark Wigglesworth, Set Designer: Paul Steinberg, Costume Designer: Nicky Gillibrand, Lighting Designer: Mimi Jordan Sherin, Movement Director: Sarah Fahie, Translator: Amanda Holden

Cast includes: Christopher Purves (Don Giovanni), Clive Bayley (Leporello), Caitlyn Lynch (Donna Anna), Allan Clayton (Don Ottavio), Christine Rice (Donna Elvira), James Creswell (Commendatore), Mary Bevan (Zerlina), Nicholas Crawley (Masetto)

Alban Berg – LULU

(In the Cerha completion. Co-pro with the Met and Dutch National Opera)

Nov 9, 14, 17 at 19.00 & Nov 12, 19 at 18.00

Director: William Kentridge, Co-Director: Luc De Wit, Conductor: Mark Wigglesworth, Designer: Sabine Theunissen, Costume Designer: Greta Goiris, Lighting Designer: Urs Schönebaum, Video Designer: Catherine Meyburgh, Video Operator: Kim Gunning, Translator: Richard Stokes

Cast includes: Brenda Rae (Lulu), Sarah Connolly (Countess Geschwitz), Michael Colvin (Painter), James Morris (Dr Schön/Jack the Ripper), Nicky Spence (Alwa), Willard White (Schigolch), David Soar (Animal Tamer/Athlete), Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts (Prince/Manservant/Marquis), Clare Presland (Schoolboy/Dresser/Waiter), Graeme Danby (Theatre Director/Bank Director), Sarah Labiner (15 Year Old Girl), Rebecca de Pont Davies (Her Mother), Sarah Champion (Female Artist), Geoffrey Dolton (Journalist)



Lulu Cigar1 met


Ryan Wigglesworth – THE WINTER’S TALE

World Premiere

Libretto: Ryan Wigglesworth after William Shakespeare

Opens 27 February 2017 for 5 performances

Feb 27, Mar 3, 8, 10, 14 at 19.30

Director: Rory Kinnear, Conductor: Ryan Wigglesworth, Set Designer: Vicki Mortimer

Cast includes:  Iain Paterson (Leontes), Sophie Bevan (Hermione), Samantha Price (Perdita), Leigh Melrose (Polixenes), Anthony Gregory (Florizel), Susan Bickley (Paulina), Neal Davies (Antigonus/Shepherd), Timothy Robinson (Camillo)


European Premiere

Libretto: Bridgette A. Wimberly

Opens June 2017 at Hackney Empire Performance dates TBC

Director: Ron Daniels, Conductor: tbc, Set Designer: Riccardo Hernandez, Costume Designer: Emily Rebholz, Lighting Designer: Scott Zielinski

CAST INCLUDES: Lawrence Brownlee (Charlie Parker)

Commissioned by Opera Philadelphia. European Premiere presented in collaboration between Hackney Empire and ENO


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  • I don’t understand why would ACE ban ENGLISH National Opera from playing Blackpool etc.?

    • I believe there has historically been a protocol (called ‘spheres of influence’) where each opera company’s funding agreement enabled them to tour to certain areas but not others, to avoid the risk of diluting local audiences and risking the viability of the regional companies. The National Opera Co-ordinating Committee also tried to ensure that repertoire planning was co-ordinated across the UK (so there weren’t too many Traviatas happening in one season). I’m not sure if this is still the case!

      • And as a consequence, Welsh National Opera has provided live opera in the south and west of England. I’m grateful that they visited Southampton when I was at school, but it does seem rather odd/silly that ENO weren’t allowed to go there.

        • Indeed. Just over half of WNO’s performances will be given in England in 2016-17. On the other hand, they’ve stopped coming to Swansea, the second city in Wales.

  • Not sure about Hackney Empire. Opera is a very hard sell there & what’s the point? To free up the Coliseum for musicals, I guess. New productions get very few performances: only 5 each for ‘Lulu’ & ‘The Winter’s Tale’. They are the only productions that interest me. As you say, ‘Gerontius’ at the Southbank Centre seems a bit pointless. Or are they going to stage it? Maybe it was part of a deal with the Chorus to avoid a strike. I like the Blackpool idea. That’s clever & should generate some dosh. Ah well, I’ll have to wait to see what’s in the 2017/18 season. Here’s hoping: glass half-full.

  • At last there’s a bit of movement on getting ENO to tour a bit. I never could understand why it had national in its title. I hope it doesn’t stop there. Royal Opera should be encouraged to tour around UK with their over paid top international stars who won’t go anywhere apart from London.

  • So, this “ban” – has the ACE rescinded it? Is ENO defying it?

    Or…was there never really one at all: just a convenient way to rationalise a “national” company that sits complacently in the West End, 5 minutes’ walk from another money-guzzling national opera company that never leaves the capital?

    The idea that public-funded opera companies have spheres of operation and don’t tread on each others’ toes is sensible in principle, and perhaps has some validity in smaller cities like Wolverhampton or Norwich. But it has led to the situation whereby all but one English city outside of London have vestigial opera seasons, at best. While London opera buffs sob about being reduced to only 10 productions in an ENO season, Birmingham – the second-largest urban area in the UK, a city larger than Vienna, Brussels or Amsterdam – gets fewer than 20 live opera PERFORMANCES (performances, not productions) per year, if it’s lucky.

    There has to be scope for more regional opera. The argument goes that existing audiences in such cities aren’t big enough to sustain more performances, but increased availability can lead to increased demand, as opera-going becomes part of people’s regular cultural behaviour. Witness London, with its healthy audiences: the long-term effect of hosepiping public money into one privileged city for several decades. This is very little, very late from ENO – but their Blackpool dates are definitely a positive development: a step closer to justifying their continued existence.

    • Sneering, cynical response.

      And the ROH has made two attempts to establish a base in Manchester.

      • I’m guessing you didn’t read past my first three lines. I believe there’s scope for more opera in the UK regions, that at present they’re under-served, that an increased share of the subsidy pot might help grow the audience-base in major cities, and that this is a commendable move from ENO. Oh, and I’d like more details of this ACE “ban”, now apparently no longer a factor. Sorry if that comes across as cynical.

  • The ‘privileged city’ happens to be the capital, has the largest population, attracts more tourism than any other UK city and generates more tax revenue than any other UK city.

    (Incidentally, rumour on the street is that Loyd Webber is going to buy the Coliseum. Is this true?)

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