Peter Gelb shouts out for English National Opera

Peter Gelb shouts out for English National Opera


norman lebrecht

November 21, 2022

The Metropolitan Opera’s general manager writes in the Telegraph tody:

The Arts Council’s decision to cut funding entirely for the English National Opera (ENO) and tell the company to move to Manchester (Letters, November 19) seems remarkably short-sighted and damaging, not only to the ENO but also more broadly to Britain.

As the head of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, I know that the ENO has long been one of our most important co-producing partners. Our collaborations on numerous productions have been seen by millions in Britain, America and across the world through our cinema and radio broadcasts, bringing cultural glory home to Britain.

The ENO has also trained and developed new talent to the benefit of audiences in Britain and abroad. And it has been at the forefront of making opera accessible to new and younger audiences.

The ENO has historically provided a programming contrast to the Royal Opera House – the two companies together providing a programming mix that, along with London’s other leading theatres, helped establish London as a cultural capital of the world. By denying funds to the ENO, the Arts Council is making an arbitrary decision to undo one of Britain’s most important cultural assets. It will diminish the British arts scene and undermine what I had thought was the very purpose of the Arts Council: to support important cultural institutions, not destroy them.

The defunding of the ENO is a destructive act for opera, for the arts in general, and for the public, who deserve better. I urge the Arts Council to reconsider.

Peter Gelb


  • Germanja9 says:

    Maybe he would like to have a few of his million dollar donors privately support ENO instead of we British tax payers? Geld uses ENO as a cheap out of town try out. The company has been sinking for over 8 years now. This institution has almost no relationship to anyone outside london. Opera North suffices for any essential northern opera needs. Which aren’t abundant either. Wake up, opera world. We are a tiny minority. Even the Met fails to sell tickets to most of their dead museum piece revivals. Their business model is an absurd waste of wealth for an elderly white upper class audience. Mr Wealthiest opera house on earth should perhaps mind his own tax payers business. He just likes the discount rentals. Which Haven’t been much of late. Those were the Berry years. Now we have…. The leftovers.

    • Peter Geall says:

      It’s a great myth that ENO serves only Londoners. I live in Coventry and attend most of their productions, as do thousands if others living in towns, cities and even villages with a good train service to London. Apart from occasional visits to Birmingham by WNO London is by far the easiest place to see opera for anyone in this area. Manchester and Ledds are far harder (and more expensive) to get to

      • Karen Libya says:

        Unfortunately the last train to York and the north leaves too early for real northerners to attend evening performances at the ENO so we are priced out of it by the overnight costs.

    • MacroV says:

      Gelb just can’t catch a break. Damned if you don’t, damned if you do. And I don’t know how co-productions generally work, but I would imagine they involve a good bit of cost sharing such that the MET’s money helped make the ENO production possible, as much as the other way around.

  • Wotanical says:

    Murphy and Brunjes worship him like lap dogs. And he spends their money well for his US company.

  • Broadsman says:

    Six years ago, the then CEO of ENO put out a statement:

    This promised ten annual productions at the Coli and six outside amongst a lot more besides.

    Six years on the, current season consists of just nine productions and nothing elsewhere. King Priam incidentally was cancelled.

    I’m not defending ACE but I can understand their frustration with ENO. Here in Norfolk we haven’t seen anything of ENO since Sadlers Wells Opera stopped touring over fifty years ago.

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    Perhaps he should hold fire until he sees what Richard Jones serves up in the out of town try out for Rheingold. Not much chance of seeing Siegfried or Twilight but at least he will have saved a few dollars towards a cycle of his own and who knows one the MET audience might actually appreciate?

    • Loge says:

      As I understand it, the Met has already withdrawn from co-producing the ENO Jones Ring

      • Antwerp Smerle says:


        That’s not surprising. On the strength of last season’s Valkyrie, the Jones Ring is not quite WTC (Worse Than Castorf) but it has too many annoyances (Wotan’s anorak! No magic fire! Ridiculous and impractical sets!) and is leadenly conducted.

        For me, this Ring illustrates ENO management’s failure in microcosm. The failure began with the choice of director. Only the greatest directors, such as Götz Friedrich, can deliver more than one really satisfying production of the Ring in a lifetime. Richard Jones’s first attempt was controversial but imaginative: second time round it’s full of second-rate ideas and “concepts”, and the result is incoherent, desultory and dull.

        How different things might have been if ENO had carefully sought out and engaged a new director with a burning conviction in a coherent concept for the piece, and engaged our greatest Wagnerian (Anthony Negus) to conduct it.

        • Karen Libya says:

          … or indeed Richard Farnes

          • Wotan says:

            Hard to get more dull that Marty. Brabbins. Why the ENO Board ever allowed such a mediocre appointment – after the flair of Gardner and the genius of Wigglesworth – I will never understand. Nevermind he’s a two face thug of a man. The very idea of such a common conductor given The Ring …. Shows exactly why ENO is done. God spare Manchester.

  • Frank Ell says:

    Peter Gelb. A person who locked out and refused to pay one cent to the Met Opera Orchestra during the pandemic. How could you post anything from this pathetic human being?

  • Sammy says:

    If Gelb is promised another Grammy nomination he will set up a Concert for the ENO

  • Adam says:

    Where was that energy for New York City Opera, Peter?

  • ViolettaAct2 says:

    And that idiot Stuart Murphy is the one who exploded any progress made by the last awkward CEO. He was too busy chasing twitter Zelebrities at his opening night parties. Holly Whatever her name is. His idea of a good night out. One can see why the ACE are over the lies and failures to measure up. Both men failed the company miserably – artistically and strategically. Yet again they co crying to the ACE instead of facing facts – they blew it. They and their very mediocre appointments to lead artistically. Tepid is the only word. Maybe hiring 2 CEOs with zero knowledge of running a huge opera house wasn’t so smart. Their Chairman should be terminated immediately.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    === King Priam incidentally was cancelled.===

    Quite rightly. I saw it in 1995 and probably the most evening I’ve spent in a theatre

  • david alden says:

    Thanks Mr. Gelb for your positive words about this impending tragedy.

    And, no surprise, what troll-like comments have followed, laced, as usual, with a bitter dash of schadenfreude…

    Like it or not, the relationship between the Met and ENO has been positive and beneficial for both companies. With the chronic underfunding the ENO has suffered for decades, it has been a much needed life-line, and has enabled some excellent ENO work to be seen in the U.S.

    Hopefully more leaders in opera, and all the arts, will speak up for ENO. There is not much time left. Soon the company will magically move overnight to a mythical Manchester, never to be seen again, and almost a century of inventive people’s opera, discovery and nurture of great singers, composers, conductors and theatre artists, will be a memory.

    • herMajesty says:

      Said the other old white male whose dwindling career was last dependent on both corrupt institutions. Your nostalgia is blind to how pathetic ENO has become. Things must change in world opera. And neither of these institutions are a financially constructive model for moving opera forward to new life. Gelb is another dinosaur leading another gas guzzling Titanic with another Iceberg ahead – yet again. As one wisely stated above, where was his passion for NY City Opera? It’s all posturing for PC branding. Gelb doesn’t care two cents about ENO. It’s a convenient way for him to cancel Richard Jones’ second failed Ring. And funny that, Monty Python directing can’t solve every opera. Another old white male who should step aside. Opera must change. I’m sorry your elderly white male generation can’t see it. Life is about death and rebirth. Let ENO go. What exciting new thing will grow in its absence ….. you baby boomers have to let go now. It’s time for a new world onstage and offstage.

    • Malatesta says:

      I am sorry to say so but you completely ignore the realities. ENO had everything and ran a season most of the year round. Now through successive failures by management and board they are reduced to a rump of eight or nine productions a year and diminishing audiences. ACE gave them plenty of warnings over the past years. ENO hardly suffered from underfunding, it just forgot how to maintain a company with a great repertoire and popular prices. That’s the memory that’s fading.

    • Patricia W says:

      I think there is room for complexity here though- the Met has arguably abused its status as a a co-producer in an almost imperialist fashion whilst using ENO as a testing ground for cheaper productions it arguably could have afforded on its own- whilst ENO has floundered, without its own artistic identity, at the mercy of an American opera house designed for a very different sort of production that ENO built its reputation on, treated like an unwanted younger sibling. And yes of course there are positives- but also negatives- to being held accountable to the whim of the Met. I saw some quite bad co productions with the Met- including Forza & Pearl Fishers.

      Also, I’m not so sure that it isn’t better that ENO dies & is reborn in a different form. London-centric it is, and in some ways is more elitist than ROH who have a greater range of cheaper tickets, outreach programmes and arguably better singing and a comfier, more pleasant audience experience. Is there actually a need for two opera houses in London? An opera house in the north is a great idea- as a complement to Opera North. Maybe they can encourage and support more diverse talent that way too.

      As a previous loyal member of the ENO audience- and I saw some great productions in the so-called powerhouse years-
      – including Hansel and Gretel, The Queen of Spades and Mazeppa- I don’t find the work of the ENO so inspiring anymore. Much better down the road at Covent Garden. Not perfect, but pretty good.

  • Nick2 says:

    There will be plenty of other Houses perfectly happy to undertake joint productions with Gelb’s failing empire.