The next show at ENO is by ABBA

The next show at ENO is by ABBA


norman lebrecht

October 27, 2017

The diminishing role of the London Coliseum on the opera scene is underlined by the next ENO co-production with the Grade-Linnit company.

Next spring they will put on a five-week run of Chess, written in 1984 by ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and Lloyd Webber collaborator Tim Rice.

Sic transit harmoniae mundi.


press release:

Chess, the epic love story set amid the tensions of a world championship chess match, will be the fourth production by Michael Linnit and Michael Grade in collaboration with ENO. Chess will have a strictly limited five week run at the London Coliseum from Thursday 26 April 2018 – Saturday 2 June, with a press night on Tuesday 1 May 2018.

This new production, featuring  English National Opera’s award-winning Orchestra and Chorus, will be directed by Laurence Connor, whose recent credits include School of Rock and Miss Saigon on Broadway and in the West End, Les Misérables on Broadway, and the international Jesus Christ Superstar arena tour. Choreography is by Stephen Mear.

Chess, written in 1984 by songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and Tim Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King, Evita), tells a story of love and political intrigue, set against the background of the Cold War in the late 1970s/early 1980s, in which superpowers attempt to manipulate an international chess championship for political ends. Two of the world’s greatest chess masters, one American, one Russian, are in danger of becoming the pawns of their governments as their battle for the world title gets under way. Simultaneously their lives are thrown into further confusion by a Hungarian refugee, a remarkable woman who becomes the centre of their emotional triangle. This mirrors the heightened passions of the political struggles that threaten to destroy lives and loves.

This collaboration between the GradeLinnit Company and ENO has previously produced highly acclaimed runs of Carousel with Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins, Sunset Boulevard starring Glenn Close, and Sweeney Todd starring Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel.

Over 190,000 people have attended one of these musical theatre performances at ENO’s home, the London Coliseum. A significant number of these audiences have already returned to see an opera with us, and Chess will offer another opportunity to introduce new audiences to our beautiful theatre and to the work of our company.

During Summer 2017 ENO will also be presenting Effigies of Wickedness with the Gate Theatre, Notting Hill, The Turn of the Screw with Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and two further ENO Studio Live productions which will be announced in November. Our Orchestra will also play for two productions (Roméo et Juliette and Un Ballo in Maschera) with Grange Park Opera.


  • Harold Lewis says:

    Harmonia should be singular, to agree with the verb, not plural.

    • Alex Davies says:

      Alternatively, of course, transeunt may be plural so that it agrees with the noun. It’s unclear which meaning is supposed to be conveyed.

      • Olassus says:

        Presumably a variation on sic transit gloria mundi.

        • Robert King says:

          These three comments have made my (and Mrs King’s) day – rather than any castigation of ENO for “dumbing down”, today’s comments on SD are an intelligent discussion of Latin grammar. Thank you!

          • Steven Holloway says:

            I think he was trying for ‘So passes the harmony of the world’, which would be ‘Sic transit harmonia mundi’, not ‘harmoniae’. As per Olassus, he only needed to paraphrase ‘Sic transit gloria mundi’.

  • Nick says:

    I will not be popular here, but I saw Chess when it was first produced and I loved the music. Still do! The book, lyrics and production were a different matter, unfortunately for Tim Rice and the producers who lost heavily on both sides of the Atlantic. The Cold War was coming to an end and everything was very out of date even before the curtain rose. Trevor Nunn took over the production that Michael Bennett (of Chorus Line fame) had initially supervised before he withdrew on account of the illness that would end his life. And it was obvious that Nunn thoroughly disliked working within the hi-tech set he was stuck with. So I am very surprised that out of the entire catalogue of musicals, the producers of this venture would choose one that was to all intents and purposes a “dud”.

    • Mark Mortimer says:

      I agree Nick- I was only a kid at the time but remember seeing Chess for its very brief run in the mid 80’s. In my opinion- its the best musical written in the last 40 years- far superior than anything ALW has come up with. Its clever libretto by Rice- involving the lifes/loves of Chess Grandmasters- was too sophisticated for your average West End Theatre goer at the time. This can be the only reason why it flopped because otherwise its a masterpiece. I think its a good move by ENO to revive it- & its quite operatic anyway.

    • Una says:

      Yes, it was good.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    I enjoyed the music too and I think it was on at the Prince Edward Theatre. If staging it means keeping the Coli open then I’m all for it.

  • Christopher Griffin says:

    Yes, the book is at fault but the music is as good as it gets and deserves to be heard again with full orchestra.

  • Will says:

    Great, I hope it earns ENO lots of money to subsidise the rest of their operation. Can’t see anything wrong with this.

  • Steven Holloway says:

    I think it was Alan Jay Lerner (My Fair Lady, Brigadoon, etc.) who said after attending a Webber/Rice musical, “I could shit Alphabet Soup and come up with better lyrics than that”.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    I saw “Chess” in the 00’s and thought it was worthwhile but would have been ideal in the Reagan era. If they can recapture that mood it might work.

    Of course the only song I recall 15 years later is “One Night in Bangkok”

  • Nick says:

    The plaintive duet “I know him so well” sung by Elaine Page and Barbara Dickson rose to No. 1 in the U.K. Singles charts for several weeks and remains popular.

  • David Nice says:

    Your attack is misplaced. This is presumably in the slot the ENO reserved for musicals, which had formerly been taken by ballet when the company had its easter break. Target the reduced season by all means, and the loss of the London Coliseum as full-season ‘home of English National Opera’, but don’t knock this choice. I think it’s a good one, anyway.