ENO’s future? CEO says it should be more like Love Island

ENO’s future? CEO says it should be more like Love Island


norman lebrecht

August 07, 2019

English National Opera’s Stuart Murphy has written his silliest article yet, in London’s unread freesheet.

Among other things:

As my teenagers sat glued to the final of Love Island last week, it struck me how often it (sic) echoes (sic) the drama we see on stage at English National Opera…

This week we start the formal search for our new artistic director and will be after (sic) someone who clocks (sic) how outward-facing opera, and ENO, needs to be. Someone who watches Sky Arts and BBC4 and knows theatre, opera and dance? Sure. But also watch or are aware of the pull of I’m A Celebrity… and the Marvel films.

We’ll spare you the rest of his solecisms.

UPDATE: Slipped Disc gets blocked at ENO.




  • harry Collier says:

    Das Land ohne Musik.

    • Mike Schachter says:

      Not so, there is a huge amount of good and even great music. But it lacks leadership in almost any sphere you care to mention.

  • 8VA says:

    When I first read Rees-Mogg’s pronouncements about style, I presumed he was – as usual – off his rocker… but in the light of Murphy’s codswallop, it seems JRM may indeed have a valid point.

  • David A, Boxwell says:

    All singers must be young, buff, and hot! All costumes must be swimwear. All works must be sung in English, no words more than three syllables.

    • Cynical Bystander says:

      Duh! All like singers like must be like young, buff and hot. All like costumes must like be swimwear. All works must be like sung in like English, no like words more than like three, um *#^, whatever. There, like fixed it for you (meaningless emoji of choice ( ) like here) Respect!

  • Stuart says:

    I read the whole thing. The ENO is seriously screwed if this is the best coming from the top. The horror…

  • John Borstlap says:

    Populism – to get bums on the seats, and without any consideration of WHICH kind of bums.

  • AngloGerman says:

    What inane drivel. He should be fired.

  • MusicBear88 says:

    Yes, there are operas like Faust that are based on great literature, but the plot of Così fan tutte could be turned into a TV movie…

  • Una says:

    They should have looked after John Berry a bit better ..

  • Mike Schachter says:

    This is so dire it must be a parody. If only it were.

  • Will says:

    He’s right though, so many opera plots revolve around the kind of silliness on Love Island. He falls in love with her, she’s not in love with him, but with his mate etc.etc.

    God forbid we might relate opera to popular culture that people actually know, be awful it tempted a few more people in to it wouldn’t it? Much better for opera to be worshiped and preserved in aspic for the few to enjoy.

    • Bruce says:

      Those wanting an opera company to perform opera (and to value it, celebrate it and sell it to a new audience) aren’t asking for it to be “preserved in aspic for few to enjoy”. ENO have a great track record for making opera speak to new audiences in exciting and and interesting ways. What’s being objected to here is the wholesale downgrading (yes – dumbing down – and, basically, distrust) of the artform at the hands of the Chief Exec. It’s the equivalent of the National Gallery saying “the Titian’s just as good as Instagram”, the LSO saying “let’s put Taylor Swift on in the first half” and the RSC translating all the texts so that people can understand it. Yes – it’s dire, inane drivel, but it’s also the CEO of ENO saying “opera’s a bit s**t – let’s talk about something else instead”. I’d be half convinced if he talked about the ACTUAL WORK with the same passion as he does about Holly Willoughby, but he doesn’t.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    Norman is perfectly justified in highlighting the solecisms. Stuart Murphy may be Cambridge-educated but he didn’t read English at that august institution. However, even the study of English rather than geography at Clare College might not have improved his literary and grammatical skills. The sad fact is that if you monitor what journalists are currently contributing to the airwaves, you will be startled by the often poor command of the language. Nobody is or was ever sitting these days, they are invariably “sat”; “to lay” is used intransitively and past tense and past participle forms are frequently confused. The level of geeky insider terminology may well be profound but general knowledge is often woefully lacking. And don’t get me started on mispronunciations. One radio presenter describing what Theresa May had recently eaten for dinner referred to “roast turbot” but with the final “t” silent, as though this was some splendid addition to nouvelle cuisine.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      As in turbot-charged? The palate boggles…

    • Opera lover says:

      I’m Cambridge educated, read English, work in and love opera and your comment is just the kind of pompous attitude that gives Opera an elitist and ‘only for toffs’ name ‘mate’. The comments and this article justify why so many people feel it is beyond their reach.

  • PL says:

    as a teenager in the 70s I saw the ENO Ring in Manchester…well 3 of 4 as I had to work Saturday night…serious music was something we aspired towards as better than trash tv…….what times we live in now!

  • Bill Worley says:

    I fear that the days of ENO are numbered

  • Former ENO supporter says:

    This once distinguished opera company has lost it’s way completely. Second rate gimmicky productions to try and get a more hip audience is desperate and futile.
    The company should disband and call it a day.
    It will never, ever be the great opera company it once was, hailed as pioneers in singing opera to the highest standards, with quality performers in English.
    Lilian Bayliss must be turning in her grave, God bless her….

  • John says:

    Oi! Stu! Y’orite mate?
    Ere, Stu – seems to me you’re (sorry, your) the sorta geezer who likes a popular cultural reference or two. Innit?
    Remember David Brent out of ‘The Office’? That’s you, that is!

  • John Holland says:

    Is that it?
    Firstly, if the ES is “unread”, then how does the fragrant Lebrechr know what’s in it?
    Secondly, why write a piece based on the premise of “sparing you” the content of the offending article? Why not “spare” us the whole thing, if it’s that pointless?
    Thirdly, only a tiresome little pedant insists on clogging up a paragraph with ‘sic’s (sic) in a tediously trite game of school debating society point-scoring, and fourthly (sic), if we are being honest, the plots of a great many operas are, frankly, cretinous. Glass houses, and all that.