ENO appoints its next short-order chief

ENO appoints its next short-order chief


norman lebrecht

March 08, 2018

English National Opera, drifting in choppy waters, has found a chief exec who can start work immediately.

Press release, just in:

Stuart Murphy, former Director of Sky Entertainment Channels, has been appointed Chief Executive of English National Opera (ENO). He will take up the post on the 3 April, joining Daniel Kramer and Martyn Brabbins on ENO’s leadership team. He succeeds Cressida Pollock who announced in September last year that she would be stepping down from the role this summer.

In 2013 Stuart took charge of all Entertainment Channels at Sky, including Sky 1, Sky Living, Sky Arts and Sky Atlantic. Under his tenure Sky won its first Emmy Awards and Oscar nominations as well as multiple BAFTA’s, British Comedy Awards and Royal Television Society Awards. He oversaw the substantial expansion of Sky Arts, increasing the channel’s commissioning budget by more than 40% and turning it into the biggest on-demand library of arts and cultural content in Europe. Stuart spearheaded Sky’s huge increase in investment in original productions, the budget for which tripled during his tenure.

In senior management positions at both Sky and the BBC, Stuart has brought to the screen some of the UK’s best-loved titles, from Penny Dreadful, Sky Arts’ Portrait Artist of the Year Competition and Torchwood through to Little Britain and Game of Thrones.  He was on the board of BBC TV, the Executive of Sky and was made a Fellow of the Royal Television Society in 2016.

Dr Harry Brunjes, Chairman of ENO, said:

“I have been thrilled by the calibre of the candidates who applied for this position, and know that Stuart’s history of enabling great creativity alongside his commercial acumen will perfectly complement ENO’s artistic and musical excellence. We were impressed by the significant growth in both Sky’s audience and output under Stuart’s direction, and by his proven ability to unite and motivate his teams through a clear and inspiring vision. Under the leadership of Cressida Pollock, and through the hard work of every single member of the company, ENO has regained its financial stability and position in Arts Council England’s National Portfolio. I look forward to seeing the company continue to prosper and grow with Stuart at the helm.”

Speaking of his appointment, Stuart Murphy said:

“I’m absolutely delighted to have been appointed Chief Executive of English National Opera. For a long time now I have wanted to pursue my passion for classical music and opera in a professional capacity, and so it is a privilege to lead an organisation that is so committed to world-class artistic, musical and technical excellence. I very much look forward to joining Daniel, Martyn and the whole ENO team. I am personally committed to ensuring that ENO continues to develop new audiences, new partnerships and on new platforms in order to ensure that the company remains as thrilling and vital now as it was when it was first founded.”

Daniel Kramer, Artistic Director of ENO, said:

“I am very excited that Stuart will be joining ENO. His decades of experience working with award-winning creative teams and enabling world-class work against a background of challenging financial realities will be hugely valuable at ENO. I look forward to working with him from April.”

Martyn Brabbins, Music Director of ENO, said:

“Stuart Murphy impressed me as a man of great integrity. He has the confidence borne of being a highly successful leader, while at the same time he displays a refreshing humility in his willingness to listen and learn from all those around him. We are looking forward to the new dynamism he will bring to ENO at this time of renewed energy within the company.”

Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, said:

“Stuart will bring a wealth of experience and energy to the role, building on all the dedication and hard work of Cressida and the team which has enabled English National Opera to return to our National Portfolio.”

Stuart Murphy grew up in Leeds, where his passion for classical music was sparked by playing the clarinet in Leeds Youth Orchestra and Leeds Youth Opera. He began his career at BBC Manchester, worked in Africa on the BBC’s Great Railway Journeys with Professor Henry Louis Gates Junior, and became the country’s youngest TV Channel Controller at the age of 26, running comedy and music channel UK Play.

Stuart subsequently became Channel Controller of BBC Choice, then devised, launched and ran BBC Three in 2003. While at BBC Three he commissioned shows from Gavin and Staceyto Bodies and developed a reputation for developing new talent as well as for commissioning innovative, award-winning programming.  Particularly notable was Flashmob The Opera, a live opera from Paddington Station in October 2004, which brought together opera choruses from across the country with the BBC Concert Orchestra and was watched live by almost 100,000 viewers. This was followed, in April 2005, with Flashmob The Opera: Meadowhall , a specially adapted version of the Faust legend, again bringing opera to new audiences in an unexpected setting. BBC Three went on to win both Channel of the Year and Best Entertainment Channel.



  • Bryan says:

    Didn’t make the shortlist Norman?

  • SC says:

    Implied – but not spelled out – is this chap’s less than successful career (teIly people know the truth). Let’s hope he loves opera and the ENO at least as much as his own need to prove himself. Fingers crossed.

  • Sue Whitman says:

    Quite an announcement. Four men to run ENO and we’re told on International Women’s Day.

    Seems strange that TV executives are seen as appropriate leaders of our arts companies but arts leaders don’t move the other way to run TV companies.

    Why? Because you need serious TV experience to work in TV senior management.

    This ENO appointment smacks of the amateurisation of arts leadership. Murphy has never worked in a performing arts company – just like his predecessor who shrank ENO to a fraction of its output.

    ENO’s appalling Board must bear responsibility. But they never do.

  • Alex Wakefield says:

    I don’t know – if you look at what he’s actually done it’s pretty impressive. I asked a friend who works in TV about Stuart and she said that he’s incredibly respected and basically turned Sky from a collection of channels that bought in most of its programmes to somewhere that was able to attract really cool creative teams and commission most of its programming in-house. Don’t forget, too, that while he was there, Sky Arts grew massively. So, if he’s able to manage creative teams to help them make really great work and also understand and develop audiences, that sounds pretty relevant to ENO right now. Sounds like he’s pretty passionate about opera and classical music, too, which is obviously important. Wait and see, I reckon!

    • SC says:

      Sorry Alex, didn’t mean to upset any friends of Stuart Murphy. But I do know what I am talking about (and have no skin in the game any more either).

      There is spin here. The figure they quote for growing Sky Arts “massively” is “40%”: do you know the baseline? The usual arts budget on Sky was £5,000 an hour (which for those who don’t know tv budgets is tiny) So not such a big achievement as it sounds.

      I suggest you find better informed pals in tv – but agree we must wait and see.

  • JB says:

    Oh wonderful, ENO have hired yet another non Opera expert. What a load of shit. This company deserves to go down the pan. Who do they think they are? Absolute disgrace. Opera needs to be driven and inspired by people who are OPERA PEOPLE and ENO has NONE. Blind leading the blind. The Arts Council should be ashamed of themselves.

    • Dominic Stafford says:

      I’m so glad no-one said that to David Webster before he founded the Royal Opera. Before that, he’d been the manager of Lewis’ department store in Liverpool. He’d done some concert managing; but had had nothing to do with running an opera house.

      • JB says:

        That was a completely different situation and he was surrounded by true opera experts. The CEO, MD and AD at ENO are all non opera people, and the chairman seems to not know or care about having anyone with any opera nouse involved. I fear that the whole industry is headed this way, which is terrible. It’s a specialist art form and needs to be done with respect and brilliance and that can only come from people that understand the full potential of opera and operas. I may be wrong, but ENO are going completely down the wrong track. Why have they not taken advantage of people who have successfully run opera companies in London, in Holland Park, and who wanted the job and turned away for someone with zero opera knowledge or understanding. I would understand this decision had this person not applied, but he did.

        • Dominic Stafford says:

          Martyn Brabbins is an experienced opera conductor. Daniel Kramer has been an opera director for more than two decades.

          • JB says:

            Martin Brabbins’ opera experience is not extensive and has been operas way outside the established cannon, but he is a very good musician. Kraemer’s first opera was Punch and Judy at ENO 10 years ago. Neither of them were opera regulars or specialists.