ENO latest: Chairman says company will close in April

ENO latest: Chairman says company will close in April


norman lebrecht

November 17, 2022

English National Opera Chair Harry Brünjes has told All-Party Parliamentary Group for opera that the company will shut permanently in April if it is required by the Arts Council to move out of London.

He said: ‘There is a lot of discussion around relocation to Manchester, and we have got to flatten that immediately. There is no relocation. This is closing ENO down. This is losing 600 jobs from London of talented and devoted and able people across all departments – so let’s get this clear.’

That seems clear.


  • Paul Dawson says:

    I was at the opening night of ENO North in 1978: Samson et Delilah. 44 years on, this chap clearly fancies himself as Samson.

    • Reggie says:

      What? I suppose with Darren Henley of ACE as Delilah cutting off his hair and bringing down the curtain.

    • La plus belle voix says:

      He is clearly a great strategist with nothing left to lose and is calling the ACE’s bluff. Perhaps a last minute solution, i.e. another venue, will be found.

      • Nick says:

        He is the dumbest man i have ever met. New wealth, no taste, all desperate: tiny male syndrome. he had 8 years to strategise to transform ENO into a new better company post berry’s departure. He failed time and time again with wrong appointment after wrong appointment. This is new strategy, this is his epic desperation from a tiny minded man. Good riddance. there is no other venue for ENO. It’s over.

    • Maria says:

      No room in Manchester for them.

    • John Pickford says:

      Do you know of a current woman who fancies herself a Dalia to cut his hair?

  • Colin Major says:

    Would be interested to know if ENO’s staff were made aware or consulted on this before Dr Brünjes made this announcement? If not, this was extraordinarily thoughtless.

    I feel for everyone there.

    • Opera goer says:

      ENO’s staff are under no illusions. The current offer from ACE will not sustain anything like the current company anywhere, so if nothing changes, it’s curtains in April. That has been clear all along.

    • Guest Principal says:

      Take a wild guess…

  • bare truth says:

    How many people lose their jobs every day because their businesses can’t compete on the market?

    Why should this business be different?

    • Fabio Luisi says:

      Because Music is not “market”, but “culture”, therefore not “goods” but “values”.

      • Jonathon says:

        A rare comment of intelligence and deeper thought on slipped disc! Thank you!

      • J.B says:

        This comment and the number of likes aptly demonstrates the blithe detachment and naivety of many in the arts community.

        Why do you think it is called the ‘music industry’? Culture too has value determined by market forces although its connection is less obvious because it is subsidised. Without that connection none of you you would able to earn a living at all.

        What does subsidy mean? In reality a tiny minority of people determine that classical music has value and are willing to put their hands in their pockets to fund it with large amounts. That means it has a market value.
        If you piss off your funders you’ll be out of business but screaming that you have absolute value. And that’s where we are.

    • Sue says:

      Well said, bare truth. ENO has been a radical failure for years now, let by this tiny untalented man and his 2 CEO bullies. Finally his lack of experience and utter lack of vision for opera have caught up with him. I do feel for anyone losing their job in this moment, but the company was also peddling mediocrity under Murphy, the dullard Martyn Brabbins, and their bland AD. Move on people. Artists don’t deserve special treatment any more than the next Joe Public.

      • Ronni says:

        What about the young people who are introduced to something that takes time to learn and understand and brings a lifelong passion. The range of the offer and the BREATHE programme are brought to us by a charity which has to reinvest. It’s not about jobs – it’s about accessible programming as everyone has to start somewhere. Dull? Maybe if you love in an ivory tower.

    • Symphony musician says:

      To Bare Truth: ENO is a charity – you do understand the difference, right? A charity is literally not permitted to make a profit. If there’s a surplus, it must legally be reinvested into the charitable cause. I suspect you do understand this and you’re simply being provocative and disingenuous.
      Surpluses in the performing arts have been incredibly rare since 2010, when public funding levels began their ongoing precipitous declines and major institutions like ENO cannot survive without funding from somewhere. I fail to understand why readers of a classical music blog would appear to celebrate the loss of a major cultural asset, along with so many jobs. I find it difficult to imagine that happening in more cultured and civilised countries, or even in the UK a couple of decades ago. How far we have fallen.

      • Jonathon says:

        Thank you for voicing something I’ve felt for a long time when reading comments on this site, but lack the wherewithal to eloquently put those feelings into words. I’m frequently astonished at the abuse, bile and vitriol hurled at musicians and performing institutions on this site. It perplexes me. Who are these people, and do they want the performing arts to succeed? Or do they just take great delight in their failure?

        • Antwerp Smerle says:

          Jonathon, the vitriol in this thread is predominantly hurled at the MANAGEMENT of ENO, not at the artists. I suspect many of the people doing the hurling DO want ENO to succeed, but are frustrated because the chronic arrogance and ineptitude of ENO’s management has led to this – potentially terminal – crisis.

        • Bigdave says:

          Yes, sometimes it seems there’s no Schade like Schadenfreude…

    • Metod says:

      Unfortunately, in the present social context you are right…

  • Antwerp Smerle says:

    I hate to say anything negative about a company that has been part of my operatic life for over 50 years, but once again this sounds petulant to me. “If I can’t have ENO on MY terms, then you shan’t have ANY ENO”. It’s the no-magic-fire response on a macro and tragic scale: “If we can’t have OUR magic fire, then you shan’t have ANY magic fire”.

    If the BBC can move a substantial part of its operations out of London, why can’t ENO? Shouldn’t Harry Brünjes be telling us that the company is urgently looking at a range of smaller theatres, throughout England and in London, that could enable ENO to survive and flourish as a touring company, bringing top-quality opera to people who aren’t always willing or able to travel to London?

    • Helen says:

      “If the BBC can move a substantial part of its operations out of London”

      It probably helps when the cost of doing so can be extracted from the public under threat of criminal prosecution.

      Perhaps ENO should be able to impose an “ENO Licence Fee”, payable by all theatre goers.

      • Karden says:

        License fee? Good idea! If the BBC/political hierarchy can do that to owners of television sets (hey, in the era of laptop monitors, etc, what’s that?), why can’t other entities and organizations do the same thing?

        How about license fees for cell phones?

        I’m not sure if I’m being sarcastic or not.

  • michael blacklock says:

    Elitist organisation, Many people can neither afford or are able to travel to London to see performances. How can it be called E.N.O. if it is merely a Capital based organisation. As mentioned by others it should not be the decision of one man who wants to close down if he does not get his way.It appears that what we have here is London Opera, not national nor representing England. Many people and organisations have financial constraints placed on them and just deal with it. You have been asked to do the same. If the money you receive and your ticket income is not high enough for you, then you have a non viable product or are not working hard enough.

    • Santipab says:

      Ah “not working hard enough” that old chestnut.

      Unfortunately there’s no correlation between how hard people work and how well they are rewarded, financally or otherwise.

      There’s also no correlation between the value of art and its popularity, in fact most things that are popular seem to be shit.

      Call it elitist or whatever you like but that says more about you than about what we are talking about here.

      • michael blacklock says:

        Raw nerve there then. Look up the word elitist you will find it describes exactly how this man is behaving, he fits the description whether you agree with me or not. Tell me what does it say about me that you can discern from my few comments. I have simply stated facts from the evidence available unless facts are hurtful to you.

        • Piston1 says:

          To get back to facts, sir: ENO is anything but an “elitist” institution. It plays to an overwhelmingly middle-class audience and happens to be based in the capitol (not capital), London. You’re just parroting the Wokester/Neoliberal typescript (speaking of “capital”).

  • Mary says:

    Exactly what this failure of a Chairman has accomplished with his disastrous two CEOs. May he go away with this on his shoulders.

  • Antwerp Smerle says:

    If you thought that the U-turns of the Conservative government over the past two months were extreme, consider the four public statements from ENO below, the first three of which are from their website.

    19 Oct: “I am pleased to be leaving a company at a time when its future has never looked more secure and exciting…”

    4 Nov: “Today’s offer … of £17 million … will allow us to increase our national presence by creating a new base out of London, potentially in Manchester.”

    14 Nov: “[ACE’s] proposal needs urgent revision so the ENO can continue to be a world-class opera company in London and perform more regularly in all parts of the country, including Manchester.”

    17 Nov: “There is a lot of discussion around relocation to Manchester, and we have got to flatten that immediately. There is no relocation.”

    It’s not funny. It indicates that ENO’s management lacks both tactical nous and – far more importantly – strategic vision.

    • Robin says:

      Typical Stuart Murphy – knee jerk reactions coupled with gross stupidity. He knew all along. Now he cries. Good bye.

  • Sue Whitman says:

    Brunjes is a brilliant chair in the sense that he has been universally sat on for years.

    He is announcing everyone’s resignation in April when he should be announcing his own resignation today.

    Clearly, ENO’s board are shameless as well as useless.

  • Tomasso Walter says:

    And yet, artists’ contracts for 2023/24 are being signed and fully executed as we speak.

  • Amelie says:

    Feel sorry for all the artists associated. Getting other jobs won’t be easy. My son auditioned for the orchestra there and heard nothing back. Think he dodged a bullet. Will soon be working in an orchestra in Europe

  • Harry says:

    Why would they do this to the very Heart of culture offEngland . Very short sighted and a gross display of ignorance.

    • screamingSop says:

      Tone down the melodrama. If ENO is the heart of U.K. culture we are all dead. ENO has been sick for years. Serota did the right thing because finally the company has no distinctive mission and vision from the ROH. It’sC list quality now – under Michelle Williams casting in particular, a glorified finishing school for her too young, too green friends. We have the RCM and RAM for that. ROH is next level. And has plenty of ticket discount options. Outreach programs and tickets for students. And it delivers a much higher quality with less provincial, Nationalist tendencies. Or are we championing gross nationalism as part of national values? Disgusting if so. As if Brexit wasn’t bad enough – a group of artists so self obsessed with their English identify that they can’t see a failed business and company and charity when The facts are clear enough. It’s such arrogance that Led the company Astray in the first place. Get some perspective. Opera has a limited audience which shrinks year by year as the great Callas, Pavarotti generation die out. It’s a waste of real estate in the centre of london. They don’t merit a full time building for such a small audience. They struggle to fill it many shows when they are there now. Face up.

  • Peter Feltham says:

    Let’s be honest about this,the English are, and always have been, about snobbery, never art.They are concerned only with childish nonsence like who gets OBEs,CBEs,MBEs, MVOs, Knighthoods etc,etc.Art is viewed with distain.

  • Lewis Graham says:

    If moving out of London was done on a 2-3 year timescale then it could – and should – be done.
    But from a practical point of view six months is not enough. Premises need to be found, staff need to relocated or recruited, funding arrangements need to be put in place. A commercial organisation of this size would need more time than the paltry six months being offered here.
    The move to Manchester is a political fig-leaf designed by ACE and the government to shift blame when ENO closes.

  • Lawrence says:

    Can we not stop this pathetic whining from this failed chair and his failed CEO? They messed up. They failed. We all watched it for 8 years. Go with Grace. 22,000 people signing a form is not significant. Not out of the millions who need that money elsewhere now. Murphy’s first radio interview the day after told us all. He wasn’t shocked or even upset. He always knew it was coming. Hence his resignation. He only feigned dismay once he realised no one else was quite as at ease as he. Total poser. Mouth full of lies and poison. He makes Trump seem an honest man. Good riddance to both of them and the waste of that building. Get a musical in it now!!!!!!

  • MMcGrath says:

    So-called ENO leadership throws a temperamental pout. But does he have any IDEAS or PLANS on how to make ENO function in London? Of course not.

    Just whining gets ENO nowhere.

    Management ignorance and negligence has marked ENO for a long while now. Management owns the demise of this company and all thst results from it. Not the Arts Council.

    The more this idiot talks, the more reasonable the Council’s decision looks.

    • Delilah says:

      Well said. Both of them brought this about – chairman, CEO and their weak leaders of music and artistic direction. Wholly average they are now. Move on.

  • Nick2 says:

    How quickly we all seem to forget. As Sadlers Wells Opera – and in the early days of the ENO, the company made regular annual tours of many weeks to other parts of the UK. Touring though is hugely expensive, although that did not stop the Scottish and Welsh companies from their regular tours each year after getting their own home theatres. So ENO decided to cut down on costs by getting rid of touring altogether and starting ENO North which soon changed the name to Opera North.

    Clearly that decision saved cash over the medium to long term, no doubt because the move to the Coliseum had cost probably more than budgeted. One of the first Coliseum productions was a dire Don Giovanni (I saw it!) produced by John Gielgud which with hindsight seems to have been a harbinger of things to come. Had not the Harewood/Mackerras years been followed by the triumvirate of Jonas, Elder and Pountney formed such superb solid foundations for many years, could Stephen Arlen’s dream ever really have been fulfilled in such a huge House? Since then it has been obvious that as the years have passed, the vision of opera in English is dead due to sub- or supertitles. So has the need for a second very large theatre for opera in Central London so close to the ROH, the more so when it does not permit excellent singers with mostly smaller voices a base.

    Even with its initiatives to widen the opera audience, its managements’ constant failings to anticipate trends and remain viable for changing audience patterns has been obvious for more than just the last 8 years or so. Arlen’s vision may have been appropriate in the late 1960s (was it, though?) but in the declining fortunes of today’s UK, it seems an investment that has long since ceased to be relevant.

  • Stephen Diviani says:

    I saw my first opera at the Coliseum in 1973, it was Penderecki’s ‘The Devils of Loudun’, staged by the Sadler’s Wells Company. I was 17. I’ve been going to see ENO productions for forty-nine years and prefer the venue to the ROH and, largely, prefer their production values & very often the voices. ACE should have been honest and just said ‘ENO will end’ rather than all the bull about moving out of London/performing in carparks & pubs. I profoundly disagree with the arch-reactionary, Rupert Christiansen, but at least he has been consistent & honest in his loathing for ENO: a shame that ACE didn’t follow his example. Now? Well, I suspect I’ll be feet up on my sofa listening to Opera Rara recordings a lot more often than in the past. My heartfelt thanks and sympathy to the company and all the great performers and creative teams who together have produced such fine opera. Sic transit gloria mundi’ – one of them anyway.

  • georgelobley@gmail.com says:

    The Arts Council needs it’s head examining. When I first came to London a long time ago I used towatch operas at the ENO as they were affordable compared to the ROH. There were some great productions. It would be a shame to lose them. There are 4 London symphony orchestras. Do we really need that many?

  • Baritoned# says:

    Can anyone shed light on why ENO‘s Artistic and Music Directors have remained mute? Where are either of their leadership skills in this moment? Rumour has it she is one of four finalists for Sydney Opera House. Wouldn‘t that be rich if it turns out that she – like Murphy – was already planning to jump ship – months before the news went public? Sydney has been interviewing since midsummer. Very suspicious. It’s like the both knew, and both made plans to move ahead…… She needs to take responsibility, too. This is also part of her failure to have any significant vision over the last 4 years. Dulls the word. But even dull is better than silent.

    • Judith says:

      She failed in Oslo and was asked to leave – conveniently shifting to ENO. And now she is already applying for a new house, before she has closed this one? Good luck, Sydney, if this rumor is true. The PC reign of mediocrity continues. I hope for Sydney‘s sake it‘s only a rumor.

    • ENOugh says:

      Brabbins and Miskimmon were named on Bryn’s petition but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re being silenced by Murphy. Any opportunity he has to take the limelight he will.

    • Antwerp Smerle says:

      “Even dull is better than silent” – agreed!

      In the latest edition of “Wagner News”, a correspondent reports that ENO’s Artistic Director has ignored five requests for a comment on the lack of magic fire in ENO’s recent new production of “The Valkyrie”.

  • Linda Mary (Jane) Bovey says:

    I worked with ENO in the Opera Movement Group from1970 to 1972.
    It was my first company job. I went in as a dancer, and learned about Opera. What a wonderful education I received!
    I was so lucky to work with top producers, top singers, musicians and top conductors. The whole atmosphere was entrancing. I learnt stagecraft, how to really hear orchestral music, how to appreciate Opera.
    From backstage to frontstage, dancing on that fabulous stage, as part of a fantastic company, I was privileged and enormously fortunate. If ENO closes it will be the saddest and most wasteful action all because the Arts Council cannot see the Jewel that is ENO. It isn’t perfect all the time and not all production’s are marvellous, but it is our English National Opera.
    There must be another option.

  • Antwerp Smerle says:

    Here’s a reminder of how good ENO used to be, from the farewell gala for Lord Harewood in 1985. Reginald Goodall conducts Wagner…