Breaking: English National Opera drops its CEO

Breaking: English National Opera drops its CEO


norman lebrecht

October 19, 2022

It has just been announced that Stuart Murphy will leave the company in 2023, at the end of his five-year contract.

His tenure has been turbulent and seldom successful. The Coliseum is in dire financial straits, getting by on longterm bookings from commercial stage musicals.

The company’s survival is at stake again in the coming round of ACE cuts. Murphy, a former TV producer, was not popular with the funding body.

Full statement:
The English National Opera (ENO) today announces that Stuart Murphy, current Chief Executive of the ENO and London Coliseum, will leave the company in September 2023.

His five year contract comes to an end in April 2023, though he will remain in post until September to allow for a smooth transition to a new CEO. The recruitment process for Stuart’s successor will commence shortly.

Dr. Harry Brunjes, Chair, the ENO and the London Coliseum, said:

“Stuart has been an outstanding CEO during exceptional times. He has shown true leadership through Covid and in developing an ambitious strategy, creatively and corporately, and a diverse, talented company to ensure the ENO is in robust shape for future challenges.

“Stuart’s dynamism and energy meant that the company not only survived but thrived during the pandemic. His impact will be felt for years to come – whether through the young faces now enjoying the ENO’s opera for free at the London Coliseum, or the better representation that can be seen on stage, in the pit, backstage and front of house or through its efficient management. The expansion of ENO Breathe, our long covid social prescribing programme, to over 80 NHS trusts and our imaginative plans for engagement projects and performances around the country , beyond London, are all testament to Stuart’s strategic drive and setting the company on a strong road ahead.”

“The Board and I applaud the tireless contribution he has made to the ENO and we thank him for agreeing to continue in his role beyond the length of his contract to ensure the smooth transition to a new CEO and as we continue to work with the Arts Council on the latest funding round.”


  • Malatesta says:

    Harry Brunjes is totally out of his depth as Chair of ENO, happy to run a part-time opera company with an enormous Arts Council subsidy. Stuart Murphy was hardly an ideal choice as CEO but it’s sad to see him being pushed as the fall-guy for Brunjes and the Board. Bizarrely, if Murphy’s contract expires in April, why on earth is he staying on for a further 5 months beyond then? Will the ACE act – is the moon made of blue cheese?

  • Andrew says:

    “you’ve been outstanding, but you’ve got to go” – delivering that mixed message never gets any easier, does it?

  • Paul Dawson says:

    “Drops” is a bit harsh, considering that he’s going on for 6 months past his contractual commitment. I doubt that there’ll a long line of quality candidates waiting to take over.

    Admittedly, I have no admiration for what ENO has been going through recently and its demise seems as inevitable as Wotan’s.

    This would be a tragedy. I have wonderful memories of cutting my operatic teeth at the Coli in the 70s. Affordable seats, (usually) quality – sometimes wonderful – performances and admirable enunciation in English.

  • Celia Thaxter says:

    When will the Metropolitan Opera wake up?

  • ML says:

    The ENO has been a difficult organisation to run for the last 20 years! The headline is wrong anyway- he’s hardly being dropped if he finished a full 5 year contract and was asked to stay another 6 months. He’s entitled to go and do something else if he wants. The ENO has had some exciting singers making their debuts and honing their craft at the Coliseum, and their orchestra has received acclaim for performing ballet scores and Lerner & Loewe (along with their usual Puccini and Bizet) in the last 8 months and delivering better results than many orchestras that play them year in year out. And their current La Boheme production is far nicer than Covent Garden’s.

  • Brian says:

    These are incredibly challenging times for any CEO who has the responsibility of running a great performing arts institution like the ENO especially as we slowly emerge from the privations of COVID.

    I cannot think of any major arts organizations that has responded to the global crisis with so much original and brilliant innovation.

  • Player says:

    Among many other failures, he allowed Martyn Brabbins to mistreat Anthony Negus last year, until the heavies told him to sort it out.

    The culture there (such as it is) is appalling.

    • The Ghost of Karlos Cleiber says:

      Go on – what happened there?? I thought Brabbins was supposed to be one of the good guys…

      • Guest Principal says:

        What happened there was ‘Player’ making assertions on a subject about which s/he clearly knows absolutely nothing.

      • Player says:

        He may well be, but he allowed a certain jealousy to intrude here.

        Negus had been preparing the singers (for the ENO’s Richard Jones Valkyrie) to a number of whom he is close – as they they go back a long way.

        He had also been booked to conduct one performance in the run. Many punters duly booked specifically to go to that performance, due to his reputation in Wagner (where Brabbins has none).

        He was then removed from this gig, rather brutally, apparently at Brabbins’s say-so.

        Representations were made at the highest levels, and the booking was suddenly reinstated.

        It was, of course, the best performance in the run, despite Negus having no time to rehearse the orchestra separately.

        Guest Principal, if that is wrong, please tell us where I have erred?

        • Guest Principal says:

          You were correct about one fact only- that Negus was booked, cancelled and reinstated.
          You have erred in all your suppositions, inferences and imputations.

  • CRogers says:

    Why can’t the headline read. ‘ENO seeks new CEO in 2023.’ Is ‘drops’ a true representation of the current CEO? I don’t know. I’ve just read the statement provided and the comments. Of course, it just seems to me to be a tabloid headline. Sad. Very sad-the tabloid headline, that is.

  • . says:

    Disappointing that he’s merely not renewing his contract, rather than having been dropped as the headline implies. The culture of bullying at ENO has been led by and condoned by his example.

  • Troilus says:

    Stuart Murphy was nothing but a 5 year bully for Harry Brunjes’ utter failure as a Board Chair. Murphy cleared out the best employees the organization had (endless NDA’s and large tax payer payouts for too many employees) – and even worse, he sanitized ANY artistic relevance/legacy the company had. He also appointed the most dull Artistic Director ever seen by the company, a most mediocre music director whose own orchestra admits they often lead him, and some of the most provincial casting we have heard in years. The once internationally relevant company has become more a finishing school for English singers, extracting the ugliest word in National(ism). Stop wasting tax payers money on what has now become a C list house in London. Give the space to the ROH, let them use it for their war horse operas and use their main house for stunning artistic risks and more specific repertoire. No one can continue to argue that ENO holds any special place in the UK opera scene – Murphy dumbed ENO down into another mild, lowest common denominator mentality. Gone are the days of risk or innovation or any sort of political, cultural relevance. When ancient Richard Jones is the go to director for both houses, you sort of understand Nick Serota asking, why does London need two opera houses? It was nice in the 80s. But the world has changed: opera has changed. Subtitles. Online opera culture. We can’t keep pretending this company has any unique brand in such financial times. Better you give their money back to Opera North and help Opera North tour nationally and have a yearly visit to London – much better than the millions being wasted on The Coliseum and basically producing musicals to pay for a maybe 6 watered down operas a year. This is not a time for our Nostalgia of what ENO once was. This is time to restructure our arts industry for the new emerging world – post Brexit, post covid, post Putin. Those funds can truly serve our Nation better. The writing has been on the wall for over 8 years: the company is done. Set us all free from this slow motion death.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      There are some contentious statements in this comment, not all of which are supported by evidence. What is uncontested is that the outgoing CEO, while supported by his chairman, alienated many loyal members of the company and led to numerous departures.

    • stringsforhire says:

      err…..are you alright Troilus? did they not hire you for something? have you seen what ENO has been doing over the past couple of years? they are the most culturally and politically interesting opera company in the country- and the only company in London for people without a lot of dosh to go to where they don’t get looked down on. ROH for the rich and those who care more about being seen -ENO for opera lovers and those who care about the future of opera as far as I am concerned- and I go to both so am in a position to judge. ROH is awash with money – it should do the honourable thing and say it is handing back its ACE money for good and let it’s 24 million funding opera for the rich go to the regions.

      • Helen says:

        “the only company in London for people without a lot of dosh to go to where they don’t get looked down on”

        Nonsense. The only thing about you that is attracting attention must be the very conspicuous chip on your shoulder,

  • former patron says:

    This guy was a pawn… totally unqualified and fired people like the second coming! ..abruptly “quit” Skye?? He doesn’t know an opera from musical… a cog in the Brunjes show ( perhaps Brunjes should be interim??) Come on Arts Council ! How long can you bandage a hemmorage.. perhaps Dr. Brunjes can fix it?… with s few more million????