Arts chiefs say UK will lose status after ENO shuts

Arts chiefs say UK will lose status after ENO shuts


norman lebrecht

November 27, 2022

A group of 80-odd arts personalities have written to the Times sying that the closure of English National Opera will relegate the UK to a lower leagun in the halls of Valhalla.

‘Everyone across the world has long looked to the UK as a centre of artistic excellence,’ they write. ‘We fear that this decision signals to the world that they – and we – must now look elsewhere.’

The named signatories include the heads of San Francisco (pictured) and LA Opera. Most of the names, however, are withheld from the print edition and the website link does not work.

Not much point these days writing to The Times.


  • UK Arts Administrator says:

    The full list of signatories is in the online version of The Times (see below) and the complete letter reads:

    Sir, We are dismayed by Art Council England’s decision to cut its funding of English National Opera and force it to move outside London. ENO has been an integral part of the global arts industry throughout its 100-year history. Its productions have been seen in all corners of the world; the talent it has trained and developed have performed with opera houses in every continent.

    It sends out a stark message that the Arts Council no longer thinks an established, world-class opera house is worthy of its investment, particularly one that has always been at the forefront of innovation and listening to audiences’ needs.

    Everyone across the world has long looked to the United Kingdom as a centre of artistic excellence. We fear that this decision signals to the world that they — and we — must now look elsewhere.

    Sir Anish Kapoor; Sir Nicholas Hytner; Sir David McVicar; Sir Antonio Pappano; Sir David Pountney; Peter Gelb – General Manager, The Metropolitan Opera, New York; Simon McBurney OBE; Matthew Shilvock – Director General, San Francisco Opera; Christopher Koelsch – General Director, LA Opera; Deborah Warner CBE; Richard Jones CBE; Oliver Mears – Director of Opera, The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Sophie de Lint – Director, Dutch National Opera; Jonathan Kent CBE; David Lan CBE; Mike Leigh OBE; Christof Loy; Alison Chitty OBE; Rory Kinnear; Sue Blane MBE, RDI; David Alden; Eric Idle; Jonathan Dove CBE; Edward Gardner OBE – Norwegian Opera Music Director Designate, Chief Conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Principal Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra; Richard Mantle – General Director, Opera North; Stephen Langridge – Artistic Director, Glyndebourne Festival Opera; Anthony Freud – General Director, President & CEO Lyric Opera of Chicago; Yuval Sharon – Artistic Director, Detroit Opera; Joan Matabosch – Artistic Director, Teatro Real, Madrid; Kasper Holten – CEO, The Royal Theater, Copenhagen; Elisabeth Linton – Opera Director, The Royal Opera, Copenhagen; Christoph Meyer – General Director, Deutsche Oper am Rhein; Fiona Allan – Chief Executive, Opera Australia; Peter de Caluwe – Artistic Director, La Monnaie De Munt, Brussels; David Devan – General Director & President, Opera Philadelphia; Bernd Loebe – Intendant, Oper Frankfurt; Geir Bergkastet – CEO, Norwegian National Opera & Ballet; Randi Stene – Operachef, Norwegian National Opera & Ballet; Per Boye Hansen – Artistic Director, Prague National and State Opera; Giorgos Koumendakis – Artistic Director, Greek National Opera; Tobias Theorell – Artistic Director, Stockholm Folkoperaen; Jean Denes – Opera Director, Theater Basel; Adrian Balmer – CEO, Luzerner Theater; Jesús Iglesias Noriega – Artistic Director, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía; Meritxell Penas Rubio – Artistic and Production Direction, Gran Teatre del Liceu; Fergus Sheil – Artistic Director, Irish National Opera; Artūras Alenskas – Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre; Thomas de Mallet Burgess – General Director, New Zealand Opera; Ulrich Lenz – incoming Intendant, Opera Graz; Albrecht Puhlmann – Opernintendant, Nationaltheater Mannheim; Marin Blazevic – General Manager/Artistic Director, Croatian National Theatre and Opera; Martin Glaser – General Director, National Theater Brno / International Janáček Brno Festival; Alain Perroux – General Director, Opéra national du Rhin;Caroline Sonrier – General and Artistic Director, Opéra de Lille;Cornelia Preissinger – Opera Director, Oper Leipzig; Berthold Schneider – Intendant, Wuppertaler Bühnen und Sinfonieorchester; Josef E. Köpplinger – Intendant, Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz Munich; Jens-Daniel Herzog – General Manager & Opera Director, Staatstheater Nürnberg; Nicole Braunger – Opera Director, Staatstheater Karlsruhe; Georg Heckel – Intendant, Landestheater Detmold; Regine Palmai – Chefdramaturgin, Staatsoper Hannover; Dieter Kaegi – Artistic Director, Theater und Orchester Biel Solothurn (TOBS); Francesco Nardelli – General Director, Fondazione Teatro Fraschini; Julia Lagahuzère – General Director, Opera for Peace; Javier Menéndez – General Director, Teatro de la Maestranza; Dietrich Grosse – Manager, Òpera de Butxaca i Nova Creació; Jesús Iglesias Noriega – Artistic Director, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía; Monica Fredriksson – Chief Executive Officer, Folkoperan; Ylva Kihlberg – Head of Dramaturgy, Malmö Opera; Uwe Eric Laufenberg – Artistic Director, Hessian State Theatre Wiesbaden; Lena Almung – Administrative Director, Göteborgsoperan; Erik Mikael Karlsson – CEO, Norrlandsoperan; Jan Henric Bogen – Opera Director, Genossenschaft Konzert und Theater St.Gallen; Missy Mazzoli – Opera Composer; Royce Vavrek – Opera Librettist; Karen Stone – Incoming Director, Opera Europa; Nicholas Payne – Outgoing Director, Opera Europa; Henry Little – Chief Executive, Opera Rara; Robin Norton Hale – General Director, English Touring Opera; Nicola Creed – Executive Director, Garsington Opera; Polly Graham – Artistic Director, Longborough Festival Opera; Jennifer Smith – Executive Director, Longborough Festival Opera; Anthony Negus – Music Director, Longborough Festival Opera; Joana Carneiro – Principal Guest Conductor / Artistic Director Real Filharmonia de Galicia / Estágio Gulbenkian para Orquestra

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Thanks. The link given in the paper does not work.

      • soavemusica says:

        I admire the optimism of the Times, as it would require me to pay for online content.

        That ship has sailed.

    • Nick2 says:

      Did I read the list too quickly but I do not recall seeing the name of the CEO of Scottish Opera, Alex Reedijk. Might there be a reason for his omission?

    • Tim says:

      That’s an impressive list. If they passed the hat amongst themselves they could probably keep the ENO afloat for a while, but we all know they won’t.

  • Michael Taylor says:

    The letter & names can be found here:
    [need to scroll down]

  • Karden says:

    That’s much ado about not as much as claimed. When the NY City Opera closed down (both technically and symbolically—now – as a shell of its former self – symbolically) in 2013, the other majors players of NYC (including in Lincoln Center) looked up, looked down, looked all away around, shrugged and then went on with their lives.

    London has so many cultural moving parts, that the loss of ENO is but a drop in the bucket. In the meantime, wake me up when the Royal Opera, etc, announces it’s closing or moving to a location outside London.

  • Sonicsinfonia says:

    Given the government’s standing following its other political antics of the last couple of years, sadly our artistic standing is of little interest to it.

  • Una says:

    Better to write to the Times if you have clout, as this list has, than do nothing at all. If and when ENO closes down, (no point going to Manchester or Salford and weaken or destroy Opera, North, formerly ENONorth) it would then all be too late to do anything, 600 jobs or so lost, and you get the usual ‘If only…’ from everyone. We only have now.

  • Has-been says:

    ‘Centre of artistic excellence’ ?? Theatre.. Yes, Orchestral.. Yes. but opera? really ? Covent Garden is certainly a top international haus but the the ENO has been in decline for years, not offering any kind of excellence or challenging theatrical performance.

  • John Soutter says:

    Experts, Elitistes … Brexit means … what’s not to like??? (Loads, actually!)

  • Antwerp Smerle says:

    That’s a feeble letter, filled with meaningless generalities and reeking of motherhood and apple pie.

    In the first paragraph, you could replace “ENO” with almost any other full-scale opera company in a major city: the letter says nothing *specific* about why ENO should be saved.

    In para 2, being “established” is surely not sufficient reason to demand continuation of funding, and to write “world class” without bringing forward any evidence is just lazy. Actually, this whole para is a waste of ink because it states a truth that was known before the letter was written: ACE has *indeed* come to that conclusion.

    Yes, it’s tough on ENO, but ACE has to make tough decisions, in this of all years. To be brutal but accurate, it’s not true to claim that the “Arts Council no longer thinks an established, world-class opera house is worthy of its investment”: ACE still thinks that the ROH deserves funding.

    “Forefront of innovation”? In the Powerhouse years, yes, but subsequently? Again, where is the evidence? As for “listening to audiences’ needs”, I think the audience needed to see the magic fire in The Valkyrie, as I’ve said before.

    The final paragraph may sound fine, but it misses the point. If I’m looking for “artistic excellence”, my first thought is not “in which country should I search?” It’s “which directors and singers and conductors will give me the most satisfactory operatic experience?”.

    I’m willing to be swayed by good arguments, but I found none in this letter. As Alan Partridge once said to a gormless Tory candidate in a spoof of “Question Time”, “you’ve got to do better than THAT!”

    • DeloresJ says:

      Well said. World class? With D list directors who are no longer hired at Opera North? Jo Davies? Alita Collins? Annilese? Richard Jones? This is safe, boring D list opera at its worst. Conducted by Martyn Brabbins and his D list boys club. Opera can’t get any more pathetic. World class? Brilliant? No. Irrelevant. ENO emailed every opera house in their contacts. They all signed to be nice: but everyone knows: ENO has been dead for years now. Next. Can we stop this nonsense and just end ENO now? how many years have we wasted on this dying company.

  • F.D says:

    “Everyone across the world has long looked to the United Kingdom as a centre of artistic excellence. We fear this decision signals to the world……etc”

    Everyone? If people in the Arts want to be listened to, or for that matter even noticed by the ‘everyone across the world’ they so confidently refer to, they would do better than to make ridiculous megolomaniacal claims like this. It just comes across as laughably deluded.

  • Kenneth Griffin says:

    “[ENO’s] productions have been seen in all corners of the world” ***

    *** with the possible, footling exceptions of Ashfield, Basildon, Barking and Dagenham, Barnsley, Barrow in Furness, Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Bolsover, Boston (not Mass.), Brent, Chesterfield, Copeland, County Durham, Crawley, Croydon, Darlington, Dover, Dudley, East Lindsey, Enfield, Fenland, Gloucester, Gosport, Great Yarmouth, Hartlepool, Isle of Wight, Isles of Scilly, Kirklees, Knowsley, Luton, Mansfield, Medway, Middlesbrough, New Forest, Newham, North East Derbyshire, North East Lincolnshire, North Devon, North Somerset, Nuneaton and Bedworth, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Redcar and Cleveland, Rochdale, Rotherham, Rushmoor, Sandwell, Selby, Slough, South Somerset, South Tyneside, Stockton on Tees, Stoke on Trent, Swindon, Tendring, Walsall, Wigan, and Wolverhampton.

  • M McGrath says:

    Where were all these so-called personalities, big cheeses and masters of the arts universe when it came to running ENO successfully in the past 8-10 years? Did they offer to help stop the company from being run into the ground by incompetents?

  • Peter Cooper says:

    The ENO were my introduction to opera. Arts penny pinching is mean spirited political maneuvering. I am deeply sad that this is the Britain our leaders want.