Katherine Jenkins gets to sing at ENO

Katherine Jenkins gets to sing at ENO


norman lebrecht

November 25, 2016

English National Opera has fed the Daily Mail exclusive details of next spring’s commercial co-production of Carousel – 41 shows over five weeks.

The lead roles in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical will be taken by the tenor Alfie Boe, who has sung opera creditably on the Coliseum stage, and Katherine Jenkins, the ‘opera singer’ who has never sung a full role of anything before. This is, supposedly, her stage debut.

It’s a ‘semi-staged’ production with the ’40-strong ENO orchestra’.

It is as it is.


UPDATE: Twelve hours later, the official announcement.


  • @operacat says:

    Oddly enough I think Jenkins could be good casting. Her voice the one time I heard it not forced into a fake “operatic” sound was pretty (in the relatively recent Under Milk Wood on television, iirc), she still has a strong following, and this is far more appropriate than the Carmen in Wales. I have more problem with Alfie Boe who has repeatedly said awful things about the whole world of opera in the press. He’s been hugely successful and has no need to put off his fans who’ve come to him through music theatre. It’s comments like his that perpetuate the myth of “elitist” Opera in the UK.

    • Maria says:

      “I have more problem with Alfie Boe who has repeatedly said awful things about the whole world of opera.”

      So has Russell Watson, but I suppose he can be excused as he knows virtually nothing about it. It seems to be mandatory.

      • Halldor says:

        Thing is, as Norman points out, Alfie Boe has sung full-sized roles in serious operatic productions – he’s had no shortage of good work from credible companies and has basically been treated well by the operatic and wider classical world. Audiences like him and in the right roles he has immense charm. Which makes his cheap digs and outdated stereotypes about the world of opera – all disproved many times over by his own success – seem particularly ungracious.
        Still, if we boycotted every opera singer who opens their mouth without engaging their brain the moment they stop singing, we wouldn’t get to hear many operas.

        • Maria says:

          Don’t disagree, but just one point.

          I would argue that daft comments from opera singers generally remain within the world of opera because the MSM isn’t interested. Daft comments from the crossovers, on the other hand, are more likely to reach a section of the public which might otherwise be enticed into an opera house. In this respect I think they are potentially more damaging.

          I would like to see a debate on mainstream TV between one of the “opera singers are toffs” brigade and someone like Thomas Allen or John Tomlinson. That would open a few eyes and perhaps cause some of opera’s chippier critics to think twice.

  • AKP says:

    The roles of Julie and Billy require really strong singers but also very good actors so the jury is out. Boe was very good in Les Miserables but Carousel has a lot of book dialogue which will be more of a challenge for both of them I imagine.

  • John Groves says:

    Carousel – yet again!! Did R and H not write anything else???

  • Bob Goldsmith says:

    Lulu 5 performances, Carousel 41. What a reflection on the priorities of ENO’s new regime ant the economics of the Coliseum.
    Friends of mine are eagerly asking me if Lulu is coming back, having failed to get tickets.

    • john groves says:

      Of Course Lulu won’t be revived!!! (Silly question!) Firstly ENO rarely revives any of its new productions – only the same ones over and over again!! Secondly it was a co-production( or ‘borrowed’) from at least one other opera house, who will presumably want it themselves!
      Re Carousel – surely there have been more than enough excellent fully-staged productions over the last few years that this ‘concert performance’ revival is superfluous. There are many other well-known (by name and recordings) American and British musicals more worthy of revival.
      I assume that all the singers will be heavily ‘miked’? Ms Jenkins certainly needs to be!!!

    • T.K.D says:

      Lulu was absolutely fantastic – but I think 5 shows were just right for the run. It sold very well – but it didn’t by any means sell out every/any night, so it is very strange your friends couldn’t get tickets….also strange – when news of Lulu coming to ENO came out, there were vitriolic outbursts from lots of people saying it was too expensive, too niche and too big and it showed ENO’s lack of management and financial skills in choosing to stage it. Now the critics love it, and Mark W led the orchestra so incredibly, many of those same people are instead angry that it didn’t have a longer run…by the way, the musical co-production deal was signed and put in place long before the ‘new regime’ you speak of started – as was the booking of Lulu. Be disappointed at the reduced opera season. Be angry. But at least be angry for the right reasons, and at the right people.

      • Bob Goldsmith says:

        The whole point of doing a longer run of performance for a show such as Lulu is to enable people to read the press reviews, become enthused and book. Lulu was all over in two weeks, after all that hard work. I suspect the new regime reduced the number of performances. And good on John Berry for bringing Lulu from New York an Amsterdam. My whole point is that a subsidised opera company should be presenting and promoting challenging work

  • Maria says:

    41 shows – does she have the stamina and will her voice stand up to it?

    I honestly don’t know whether she’s done a long run before.

  • Bob Goldsmith says:

    Just look at ENO’s plans until Autumn 2017:

    Two G&S revivals (one now cancelled through crass incompetence); the umpteenth revival of Rigoletto (with a cheap all-American cast); an imported chamber opera from Philadelphia; and just two operas worth seeing at The Coliseum.

    This is grounds to remove ENO’s Arts Council grant or preferably to sack their management forthwith.

    • John Groves says:

      I am afraid I totally agree with you, Bob! Just look at the work that ETO, WNO, ON and Scottish Opera do on a fraction of ENO’s ‘subsidy’! Artistic standards are still high, surprisingly, at ENO: if only one could say the same for the management!!!

  • D. J. B. says:

    Undoubtedly Ms.Jenkins will use the miked occasion and the very fact that she walked through the stage door of the Coliseum as definitive evidence that she is a real ‘Opera Singer’ – best of luck to her ……….

    • Tricia K says:

      Katherine has never called herself an ‘opera singer’. The Press call her it. Get at them not her! She calls herself a ‘classical crossover singer’.

      • Adrienne says:

        Tom Service, Guardian, 19th Dec 2008:

        “I’m not an opera singer because I haven’t sung in an opera yet. I’m a classical singer who sings crossover music.”

        I think “classical singer” is also debatable.

  • Bob Goldsmith says:

    ENO are presenting just 80 performances in the 2016 – 2017 alongside 41 of Carousel. Sorry to harp on, but this is outrageous!! No wonder Mark Wigglesworth left.

  • Benjamin Bevan says:

    Maybe ENO will be able to raise loads of cash from this and plough it into their future productions. With no appetite in government for raising subsidies, this seems to me an eminently sensible way of clawing back some of the money and public that crossover has removed from the opera world and using it to subsidise ENO and perhaps build a new audience. Alfie is a fine singer, she is incredibly famous. I would go further, use the ENO orchestra and chorus to support sell out acts, get them televised , Michael Bublé, Diana Krall, The Krankies, whoever,
    Then, with the profits, ENO could do its own thing, maybe in a smaller theatre…

    • Bob Goldsmith says:

      This would be a sensible course of action were ENO to be akin to Raymond Gubbay. However it is currently operating on an Arts Council grant, with the conditions and expectations this brings.

  • Real mezzo says:

    The world has gone mad.

  • Halldor says:

    Nothing about Ms Jenkins’ career to date particularly fills me with confidence, but let’s reserve judgment until we’ve actually heard her in this, shall we? Weaker voices and less experienced actors than her have carried West End shows before now, and very effectively. And she’s unquestionably a shrewd choice as regards the box office.

  • john groves says:

    I assume that Ms Jenkins will be performing the role of Mrs Mullins (Patricia Routledge played it in the NT production), rather than the teenage Julie Jordan?

    • AKP says:

      Actually Mrs Mullins is the carousel owner. Patricia Routledge played Cousin Nettie in the NT production. Ms Jenkins is Julie Jordan and I agree rather mature for the part, which is usually played by actresses in their 20’s.

      • john groves says:

        Thanks, of course you’re correct! I should have taken the trouble to find the programme – tho’ that might take some time! Ms Jenkins is MUCH too mature for the role of Julie! Still if I were getting paid as much as I assume she is, I would sing Julie!!!

  • David Boxwell says:

    The ENO will never fund-raise alone.

  • William Safford says:

    Here’s the question:

    Will it be a real nice clambake?

  • Sebastian Petit says:

    Truly pathetic casting – wrong in every way. Boe’s light tenor entirely unsuitable for Billy Bigelow which requires a rich bass baritone. Jenkins’ non-voice is not suitable for anything as classy as Rogers and Hammerstein plus she has zero acting experience which will be disastrous in the role of Julie. Also both performers at least 10 years too old for their respective parts. After the good Sweeney and the wonderful Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard this casting is an insult to both the piece and audiences!