Reports: Wagner Society members demand ENO refund

Reports: Wagner Society members demand ENO refund


norman lebrecht

November 18, 2021

We’re hearing that members of the Wagner Society have protested to English National Opera over the removal of conductor Anthony Negus from a performance of The Valkyrie. Dozens, we are told, have cancelled their tickets and requested refunds.

Some, who were coming from as far as Scotland, are having to reclaim their rail tickets.

Negus is an immensely trusted Wagnerian. ENO has done itself no favours by dropping him.

Friends of Negus have been asked not to comment on the matter.



  • V. Lind says:

    That “friends of Negus” have been asked not to comment suggests one of two things: that Negus himself does not want the reason published — after all, despite yesterday’s headline, suggesting he was fired, the post itself refers to “sudden departure,” opening the possibility that he left in a pique, legitimate or otherwise — or that there may be a lawsuit pending.

    This story needs clarification.

    • IC225 says:

      A lawsuit? Unlikely: this isn’t the USA. Far more likely that both sides – for whatever reasons – want to draw a veil over whatever has prompted this unhappy development. I’d be surprised if anything is made public any time soon (at least, anything beyond carefully-worded bromides).

      • Bob Goldsmith says:

        Quite ridiculous that acolytes of Negus want ticket refunds. I imagine he feels quite embarrassed. Clearly they have no appreciation of the principal singers – all their efforts learning the score, talent and craft; the huge number of orchestral players; or all those involved with the staging of a 5 hour masterpiece of opera that is the pinnacle of London’s opera season. Above all they are clearly no longer excited by hearing Wagner’s music in a theatre with one of the most glorious acoustics for his music. I hope ENO tells these ticket holders to get stuffed. The evening is bigger than who is conducting. Although on reflection handing the tickets back gives the chance for a younger audience to see Wagner’s opera who might actually appreciate the production.

        Please Norman stop your petulant ENO bashing!

        • Maria says:

          I am not an ENO basher but they need to be held account anf be transparent for its dreadful move.

        • Richard says:

          The conducting is pivotal in a score like this. What are you talking about?

          • Maria says:

            Yes, but there are more than one conductor around. No one is indispensable in this world, not even a conductor for Wagner, and certainly not even Negus. But the way it has been done is what’s wrong with it all, and in such a heavy-handed yet secretive way.

        • Player says:

          How do you feel now, Bob? ENO has told us that “Everyone at the ENO looks forward to welcoming him to the London Coliseum pit”.

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    I appreciate that we haven’t yet seen or heard it but looking at the pictures of the technical rehearsal on today’s Guardian it might simply be that he doesn’t want to be associated with what looks depressingly like today’s off the peg, bring your own frocks, bargain basement Regie cliches. As an aside, if this Valkyrie is as bad as it looks I can’t see it reaching the MET without some drastic reworking.

    • Paul Dawson says:

      Thanks for the reference. I’m inclined to agree with you.

    • operacentric says:

      Just what I was thinking! Mind you the Longborough semistaging looked quite similar and Negus happy to go ahead with that…

      • IC225 says:

        The staging at Longborough this summer was a compromise, staged in order to provide some sort of continuity after the disruption of 2021. It wasn’t part of the complete Longborough Ring Cycle, which will have a fully-staged production of Die Walkure, with full orchestra.

        Negus is a very experienced opera conductor, used to working in big houses with intelligent and imaginative modern directors (his wife is a director and made some bold additions to her staging of Tristan und Isolde). I doubt very much that he’d throw a walking-out tantrum simply because the Valkyries aren’t wearing horned helmets, or whatever they’re demanding at AMOP these days.

        • Player says:

          ‘…Used to working in big houses…’

          Citation needed.

          • Maria says:

            Anthony Negus studied clarinet and piano at the Royal College of Music London, and gained a music degree at Oxford University. He also joined the newly formed Else Mayer- Lismann Opera Workshop, where he was able to develop his passion for opera, both playing and conducting. He was for severa years a musical assistant in Wuppertal, and in Bayreuth working with Erich Leinsdorf, Heinrich Hollreiser (Tannhauser), Horst Stein (Ring), and Eugen Jochum (Parsifal).

            Following a period with Hamburg State Opera, he joined the Welsh National Opera(WNO) music staff. As a conductor there, he built up a wide repertoire of operas including Beethoven (both Leonore and Fidelio), Gluck, Mozart, Richard Strauss (Elektra, Ariadne, Die Frau ohne Schatten). It was his work with Music Director Sir Charles Mackerras in particular that led to his emergence as a vital and sensitive conductor of Mozart, all of whose major operas from Idomeneo to Tito and Die Zauberflote he has conducted.

            Working with the legendary Wagnerian conductor and coach Sir Reginald Goodall in the 1970’s and 80’s was a formative and highly influentional period which led to his conducting Parsifal and Tristan und Isolde; and then assisting Sir Richard Armstrong, Rheingold, Siegfried and Gotterdammerung; also Janacek, Martinu, Alban Berg Wozzeck, and James MacMillan The Sacrifice for a BBC Broadcast issued on CD by Chandos.

            He has conducted Parsifal for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in Wellington, and in Luebeck, Germany; after working with Vladimir Jurowski, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg for Glyndebourne. More recently, he conducted Le Nozze di Figaro for WNO; and in 2016 Alban Berg Lulu for Bolzano Italy, as well as a Welsh L’Elisir d’Amore for Opra Cymru, and Bizet Carmen for Lyric Opera Dublin.

            His concert repertoire includes Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schubert, R.Strauss, Weber, Gershwin, Copeland, and Charles Ives, and aspires to the major symphonic works of Brahms, Bruckner and Mahler.

            Over many years as Music Director of Longborough Festival Opera, he has established himself as one of the most perceptive and original conductors of the Wagner repertoire, culminating in the highly acclaimed Ring Cycle in 2013, followed by Tristan und Isolde, Tannhauser, and Die Zauberfloete. The 2017 revival of Tristan und Isolde prompted unprecedented critical and audience acclaim.

            In the 2017/18 season he returns to Luebeck for Der fliegende Hollander, prior to conducting Hollander and R.Strauss Ariadne auf Naxos for Longbrough 2018.

            So over to you all to decide!

          • Kenny says:

            I’m sad that he put that résumé on his website.

          • Amused says:

            I guess Longborough Festival Opera IS the biggest opera company in Gloucestershire…

      • Una says:

        Semi-staging a different ball-game and always a compromise.

    • Neville Sumpter says:

      It is worse than it looks utter CRAP

    • Allen says:

      Which is why concert or semi staged performances have so much appeal (ROH during redevelopment, and Opera North).

      Only those with deep pockets are prepared to pay a premium, and then keep their eyes shut to block out the ludicrous Regie excesses. The Guardian images rule it out for me – pantomime horses, ill-fitting green anoraks and, at the same time, carrying spears? This is ENO’s interpretation of “relevance”.

      I hope I live long enough to see the demise of this parasitic Regietheater claptrap, and I can start enjoying live Wagner again. In the meantime, any chance of a concert performance at the Proms next year?

      • Brian says:

        Sadly as a frequent visitor to Bayreuth I have got accustomed to closing the eyes for the key parts to enjoy the musical sound and not be distracted by the weird stagings.

        • Patrick Gillot says:

          So true. I remember an awful staging of Parsifal, an Opera with Maximum 4 real characters where Stefan Herrheim populated tge stage with dozen of cameos to emphasize his obsessions ….

      • Angela H says:

        In response to Allen, the 2013 Proms concert performance of the Ring Cycle under Barenboim bust the budget for that that year, and I suspect the next. Wonderful though.

        If my favourite singer has to withdraw from an event I do not expect to have my train fares refunded! After the initial disappointment I get ready to hear a replacement who may, through that lucky break, have been handed a chance to be a star of the future…

  • Player says:

    A well known singer with knowledge of the situation has privately told others that his treatment by ENO has been “absolutely disgusting”.

  • Mathias Broucek says:

    Why do people assume a big conspiracy when details are not published? The “real” reasons why indviduals and organisations part company are very rarely made public unless completely benign or obvious to everyone. It normally suits either or both parties to keep things confidential and that does not automatically imply something scandelous..

  • Neville Sumpter says:

    I saw the dress rehearsal on Tuesday. Utter regietrash! Act 2 opens in a house Brunnhilde dressed in flowery trouser suit playing darts!!!!! Wotan in cord trousers, held up by braces, check shirt red anorak! Need I go on?????? Fricka in modern white trouser suit!! Need I go on????????

    • Maria says:

      Yes, but was the singing any good, and could you hear good English diction? You can always close your eyes and listen when the singing is good, but you can’t close your ears when it’s not. Remember doing that for Idomeneo years ago – set in something that looked like Canary Wharf with the Thames in the background!

    • Leon says:

      Surely that’s not necessarily bad? It depends on the total interpretation? I remember a Viennese friend, and they can be very conservative, loving his previous ring, she said it was so witty. On my part, I’m subscribing to the Met online, the Le Page is terrific imo.

  • Antonio says:

    There was a time when conductors and singers of substance would have had nothing to do with the directorial (expletive deleted) being trotted out by opera companies these days. It’s the lure of a quick turnover, I suppose, and the consolation that rubbish is soon forgotten. Fortunately, the music lives on.

  • Sherry says:

    I’m no friend, but ENO are assholes.

  • Wahnfried3 says:

    Reports now that the ENO have reinstated Mr Negus. Excellent news that common sense has prevailed with all concerned.

  • Player says:

    Glad the forces of darkness have for once been repelled! Good. As you were…

  • Player says:

    Less regietheater, more Reggie Theatre. Man the barricades!

  • Peter W says:

    Don’t know about the ENO production. Just two thirds of a way through a visually appalling Deutsch Oper Ring.
    Case of three down and one to go. Eyes closed most of the time.

  • Cosi says:

    He has been reinstated, according to material issued at the performance last night.