Just in: English Touring Opera chief is being eased out

Just in: English Touring Opera chief is being eased out


norman lebrecht

January 20, 2022

Following his appalling miscommunication with orchestral musicians, James Conway is taking a half-step back from running ETO.

Here’s the manicured PR bleah:

After 20 years leading English Touring Opera, Director James Conway has decided to take a step away from a full time position with the company in order to pursue freelance opportunities.

Conway has agreed to remain Artistic Director of English Touring Opera in a part time capacity until the end of 2022, working with Interim Chief Executive Michael Garvey; during this period the company will recruit a new leader to carry on its important work in bringing live opera to people and places all over the country.


  • Jon San Van says:

    James Conway has done so much for ETO over the last 20 years. He will leave a large hole in the organisation.

    • La plus belle voix says:

      His legacy then justifies his recent audacious treatment of loyal freelance musicians? So that’s alright then.

      • Jon San Van says:

        Numerous singers and musicians would have had to leave the industry entirely if it weren’t for the support Mr Conway encouraged ETO to give freelancers during the pandemic. The letter to the freelance orchestral players that were not being invited back was unfortunately worded but twenty or so years of leading the company when so much in the world has challenged the arts isn’t erased by that event. Unless we are suggesting that any mistakes made should destroy all the good work done in the past, truly the cancel culture that the woke are accused of.

        • V. Lind says:

          I hope that goes for Rhodes, Churchill, Colston, Jefferson and all the other people whose work contributed so much because they did things that were not even considered mistakes in their own times.

    • christopher storey says:

      Van San : not ‘arf as big a hole as the musicians whose services he dispensed with in cavalier fashion

  • William Boughton says:

    That ETO exists at all is largely due to James Conway’s passion for the art-form, the company and the public it serves, many of whom, in the regions, were introduced to Opera by this company. He is owed a huge debt of gratitude by the young singers, directors, conductors, designers, costumiers, and yes, orchestral players that he has nurtured over these last twenty years.

  • Veritaserum says:

    ETO sources are very clear James has been planning his retirement from ETO for a long time. COVID 19 postponed that plan, that is all.

    Leaving was entirely James’s choice. The board have asked him to stay till the end of the year. The man has been a tireless advocate for high quality opera across the UK and should be celebrated for the vast amount of quality music theatre ETO have brought to parts of the country untouched by larger companies.

  • Rustier spoon says:

    I thought he’d already gone…I suppose he’s trying to stay long enough to be able to cement in place the new orchestral appointments…

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Time to phone all those unfairly ditched musicians, then.

  • Anon says:

    Good riddance. Conway is an appalling man – a control freak and a bully who has had a couple of good ideas for productions, but lacks basic competence in 80% of his job, and as nepotistic as they come. It is no coincidence that he has spent so long at this company – I can’t imagine another arts organisation touching him with a barge pole. Nobody who has worked with him will have been in the least bit surprised at his dreadful and tone-deaf (I use the word advisedly) handling of recent events. Hopefully ETO can now move on with some new talent.

    • Streghe says:

      Mediocrity in action. Appointing his domestic partner as conductor. Retirement overdue. Basta!

      • Countervail says:

        His domestic partner is a talented performer in his own right, first as a vocalist and now a baroque specialist. He’s sung around the world and now as a conductor regularly receives excellent notices. What have you done musically in your life?

        You sound like the bitter grapes that used to fight on the listserve boards endlessly about the most obscure performances ever recorded. Opera snobs of the worst kind.


    • countervail says:

      But without him, there would be no ETO to complain about. You sound awfully bitter for someone without an axe to grind.

  • Countervail says:

    It was a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” modern conundrum. If he left the concern of diversity to the side, he faces the consequences of anti-diversity, loss of funding, etc. The solution then also has the consequence of affecting the steady income of essentially contract players.

    Who exactly has won here? New orchestra members of color are now part of a more unstable organization without the leadership that brought it it where it is, older long-term instrumentalists are out of a job, and the head of the organization – the main reason for the advancement of the company is now leaving under the shadow of being a racist or ageist when both things are obviously untrue.