Wales terminates opera in England

Wales terminates opera in England


norman lebrecht

November 22, 2022

In a swift response to Arts Council England’s removal of its touring subsidy, Welsh National Opera has cancelled performances in Liverpool.

Other venues will follow.

WNO General Director Aidan Lang said:
“We have had to make the very difficult decision to remove Liverpool from our touring programme.
We know that this will come as a deep disappointment to our audiences in Liverpool and
Merseyside, and I would like to thank them for their support since our first performances in
Liverpool at the Royal Court in 1968, before moving to Liverpool Empire Theatre from 1976.
“Following their recent announcement, we are now facing a significant cut to our ACE funding. The
reality of this means that we have no option but to make cost savings and this will result in difficult
decisions. Our decision to withdraw from performing in Liverpool is regrettable, but has been
carefully considered, taking into account a wide range of factors which will help us to make cost
savings without impacting the quality of our work.
“In recent years, we have taken many steps to reduce our costs, whilst maintaining the balance of
producing work of the highest artistic standard and a stimulating programme of engagement
activities. We are committed to continue delivering our work but will need to diligently review the
impact of rising costs and funding cuts as we move forward.”


  • Dr William A Evans says:

    Sadly this was always on the cards, given ACE’s signifcant reduction in support for WNO. Programme reductions (at the very least) should be anticipated from other organisations experiencing similar funding crises.

  • Tamino says:

    Wales and Scotland should secede from Ol‘ Engeland and rejoin the EU, according to the will of the majority of their people.

    • Maria says:

      Boring! They need to leave the UK first, and they voted to stay in.

    • Barry says:


      Wales: leave 52.5%, remain: 47.5%
      Turnout: 71.7%

      • Tamino says:

        I stand corrected. It was Scotland where 62% wanted to remain in the EU. And Northern Ireland.

        But considering the overwhelming majority of “leave“ votes came from the old people, a vote today, eight years later, would probably result in „remain“ for Wales as well, simply by demographics.

    • Alan says:

      Taming, this is a United Kingdom.
      Devolution has done untold damage.
      Please don’t encourage the separatistsz

      • Tamino says:

        Leaving the UK to rejoin the EU most likely would be progress, not „devolution”.
        The UK is like the Titanic these days.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          The UK operates on the basis of economy of scale. Try going it alone as a little nation in the treacherous world of so-called ‘free trade’. You’d sink within the hour. What sounds great in theory seldom translates to great in reality.

          Reminds me of the truculent teenager who ostentatiously leaves home and then arrives back at the door within 12 hours, tail between his/her legs, bag in hand.

          • Aeroblue says:

            It does make you wonder how all those “little nations” around the world appear to be not only thriving, but flourishing as independent countries?

          • Tamino says:

            Most of those had holes in the ground that spill petro/gas dollars. Then a few tax and capital heavens. Notable exceptions like Singapore: strategic location for trade by sea. What does the UK actually have? Except imperial hubris in abundance of course.

  • Nil by Voice says:

    Forgive me, I’m furious.

    Amazing to see further examples of the levelling up agenda in action… Can we just dispense with the ACE bull now and agree that this was just a populist move to defund opera, and that they had absolutely no consideration of the consequences?

    Where the hell is the sector leadership here? Marching on ACE and DCMS is just not going to cut it.

    MU, ISM, Equity, ABO, BECTU need to start working together – join forces and call in all your favours, because there has never been a bigger threat to opera in the UK than these cuts.

    And for all those other companies and opera heads keeping silent for fear of their own grants, understand this; if you don’t join in now you are sealing your own fate. This is death by 1,000 cuts and it has to stop now.

    • MJA says:

      @Nil by Voice: I couldn’t agree with you more. I will not be remotely surprised if GTO have to follow suit and withdraw from touring to Liverpool as a result of this dumb move allegedly designed to improve regional coverage.

    • Barry says:

      “just a populist move to defund opera”

      Exactly. However, the media, and the BBC in particular, must bear some responsibility for marginalising opera in the eyes of the public.

      I clearly recall when an opera singer could appear on a chat show. Not very often, admittedly, but they did. Dumb down television, and you dumb down the public’s perception of what is going on outside of their immediate bubble.

      “I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here” – for God’s sake!

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        It’s not possible to maintain ‘dumbed down’ television without a nation that isn’t already ‘dumbed down’. That’s why those Fleet Street rags were/are so successful; without an enthusiastic and prurient readership they wouldn’t have lasted in the first place. Tabloid and readership; a symbiotic relationship.

    • David L. says:

      @NbV I think your play on words for the Liverpool pathway is very clever – Remove food and water until the person dies – exactly what the arts council are doing to opera.

      Let’s not forget that the whole situation that ENO finds itself in today is the result of them trying to balance artistic excellence with financial probity, all while jumping through hoops to meet ACE’s funding principles.

      I spoke to a company head last week who said they were examining strategically removing themselves from the portfolio in the next round, purely because of how much power and influence ACE has to its artistic and strategic direction. Especially considering that it’s grant makes up less than 1/6 of its income – not to mention the endless reporting and evaluation exercises!

      If Arts Council England was truly an arms-length body that supported and championed the arts, we would not be having this conversation. Instead, it has become a virgin cocktail of bureaucratic overreach and saccharine ineptitude.

      Think I’ve worked out who you are btw, if so, doubly clever!

  • David Alden says:

    Your fury is absolutely justified. Welsh Opera, the Glyndebourne tour, ENO, and then who’s next? How can the ACE, who supposedly exist to support and encourage this and other art forms, be allowed to slowly dismantle, and thereby become critics and executioners?

    The leaders in opera, and the other affected arts, must now speak up! where are the great managers, conductors, directors, and performers? We need their voices and their passion now.

    • Stephen Lord says:

      Yes, David, you are spot on. 100%. Alas, those making these decisions no doubt go home to their comfortable homes, send their children to the best schools in the morning whilst they seemingly arbitrarily take all hope of those things from people much better equipped than they to decide the fate of art in all its forms. VERGOGNA. They are showing their willingness to plunge into the third world and join the USA in its short-sighted and backward ways.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Just like Christianity, the war against culture is a pervasive one which is never over. Culture feels persecuted through cuts and disregard; all part of the same continuum where it’s much easier to feed the people bread and circuses, and without significant patronage it is destined for the sidelines.

        At least the Christian churches have their own real estate!

  • Kenneth Griffin says:

    Yes, this is regrettable for Merseyside opera-goers and for workers in the opera sector.

    But the 2023-26 portfolio rebalancing of funds, in accordance with long-announced ACE policy and DDCMS directive, is of benefit to the wider UK population and to arts workers in other sectors.

    The right time to protest was months ago, when the policies and directives were announced. Today’s protests, coming at this late stage, appear to be special pleading by niche groups wanting to retain their longheld priveleges. These protesters kept quiet whilst the funding decisions were being made, presumably on the assumption that they’d continue to be favoured, because they consider themselves more important than any other arts activity…

  • beeching -2 says:

    Beeching for railways, so who will get the nomination for killer of UK Opera now?

    The Arts Council of Great Britain was created in 1946 by Royal Charter on the initiative of John Maynard Keynes.
    Keynesian economics played out by the book apparently.

  • Una says:

    The whole thing is just so awful. Its an assaulton opera, and wprld-class national companies as well. Giving money to the Blackpool Illuminations, for example, and a Centre in Wakefield is not levelling up. It’s just dragging everything down to the lowest common denominator. Too late when its all gone. All these unions, associations and organisations, that represent singers and musicians, need to work as one to save jobs.

    • Helen says:

      There are people in ACE and elsewhere who, it seems, just regard opera as an expensive (and probably elitist/Eurocentric/take your pick) nuisance.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        It has been under assault in many quarters to exactly that extent in recent years; too white, too privileged, too Eurocentric. Not enough diversity, not enough equity, not enough trans, not enough nanny state, not enough taking of orders from their betters.

        How would you expect any culture to survive in such a zeitgeist filled, as it is, with philistinism and their dictatorial acolyte barbarians?

  • says:

    The Arts Council should be ashamed of itself. Classical music has not had a natural home in Li rrpool and to deprive it of opeda is a sin. The ACE itself should be abolished in its current form. It is not fit for purpose

    • Helen says:

      I assume you mean that opera has not had a natural home in Liverpool?

      The RLPO is the oldest orchestra in the country (Hallé please note).

      Agree about ACE.

    • Elizabeth Owen says:

      You seem to have forgotten the wonderful Liverpool Philharmonic and St. Georges Hall.

  • Nick2 says:

    The irony of the present situation re arts funding is that when the Arts Council was formed out of CEMA after WW2, it was headed by the noted economist John Maynard Keynes. Married to the ballerina Lydia Lopokova, Keynes was adamant that the bulk of the funds go to the creation of excellence – provided it was only in London. Although Keynes died after just one year, the Council’s focus and primary funding remained London. In at least one year in the 1950s Covent Garden alone received more than 50% of the total AC government grant.

    In those far off days, Scotland – and I assume Wales – begged for and was constantly denied funding based on the formula for the provision of general overall government funding between the four nations in the Union. It was largely under Harold Wilson’s visionary Arts Minister Jennie Lee and the AC’s Chairman Lord Goodman that the arts in general and Scotland and Wales in particular started to receive greater funding. These were glorious days for the arts in the UK. How times have changed!

  • D Harris says:

    Culture is not a tap you can turn on and off.

  • Classical scouser says:

    As a lifetime opera lover and musician I am very sad WNO will not be in Liverpool. However, with only 500 in the audience in a 2000 seater theatre on my last pre covid visit, the economics don’t add up and previous repertoire choices clearly have not attracted the local people.

    • Barry says:

      That’s shocking, but also the harsh reality facing fashionable notions of “levelling up”. Some people are not interested in being “levelled up” in the way that politicians think they should be.

      There are many reasons for this and what appears to be a narrowing of people’s range of interests. We need to be wary of simplistic solutions, often based on political ideology.

      With people living longer and, in theory at least, having more leisure time, it’s sad that we seem to be restricting rather than expanding the range of options available.

    • Gus says:

      WNO are struggling to attract a full audience in Cardiff, seats in the upper circle are no longer offered in WMC.

      A greater proportion of their funding came from ACE for touring than came from Welsh Arts Council.

      I believe other touring centres in England were also affected by less than full capacity audiences, so a general phenomena, people in the UK are no longer interested in opera, a shameful reality.

      • Barry says:

        “people in the UK are no longer interested in opera”

        Yes, because unless they come from a family or community where it is considered “normal”, or attend a school which encourages a wide range of interests, they never hear it, or hear from people who are enthusiastic about it.

        I didn’t acquire an interest in opera at school, I think few people do, but at least seeds were planted.

        Decades ago, TV was reasonably good at bringing new experiences into people’s homes. Now, not only do TV companies not bother most of the time, but technology allows people to restrict their viewing to subjects they are already familiar with.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          I could suggest to you that the collective IQ has fallen considerably.

          Sid Caesar said that decades ago; when TV sets were mass-produced in the USA and ended up in every home, he claimed, the collective IQ fell until there was no longer any demand for intelligent satire.

  • Alasdair Munro says:

    We will be there on Friday for the Makropolos Case in Southampton. It would be tragic if it were the last time.

  • Charles says:

    If you shout loud enough it works. The hospitality sector caused enough rumpus during Covid to put the idea of ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ in the heads of Johnson and Sunak. It cost £849 million and lasted one month, from Mondays to Wednesdays. The Arts Council gets little more than £400 million for the whole of England in ONE YEAR. If WNO is no longer serving Liverpool will Birmingham, Oxford and Southampton fall under the touring axe? Is that levelling up? Perhaps those cities now should form the tour for a revitalised and touring ENO? After all, they are in England…. Is that the plan? If so, ACE, please, get your act together, understand the basic geography and existing touring activities of the UK companies, their identities and their functions and make your intentions clear so the industry can respond, importantly ensuring you give enough time to make plans. And fight for the role of the Arts in this country. The Government you are under is the deafest to your call since you were founded.

  • Mike says:

    What has the Brexit discussion got to do with the sad fact that WNO are reducing their English tour. Don’t care about your politics – sad day for opera.

  • Nick2 says:

    Back in the mid-1970s the Empire Liverpool was on Scottish Opera’s touring schedule for several years. Since the ACE is seeking more opera in that part of the country, perhaps it could provide Scottish Opera with the funds again to return regularly to Liverpool. It would of course be more sensible for the funds to go to the Welsh company, but who now claims the ACE members have even a smidgen of sense!

  • CRogers says:

    This is all very sad and heart breaking. On a personal note: in 1975, WNO used to come to Manchester in those days touring. I was 18 at the time and they came to the leisure cente at Abraham Moss in north Manchester. It absolutely thrilled me to hear them sing excepts from The Flying Dutchman and La Boheme as part of their outreach. I felt very at home. It pushed me further into my interest in vocal music. In other touring productions I heard Thomas Allen sing Don Giovanni, I think it was, Rita Hunter in Ballo and many others. As a young enthusiast they were formative experiences. I hate to think a young person in L’pool wanting to hear opera…..

  • Save the MET says:

    Perhaps if Britain stopped subsidizing the costs of a monarchy, there would be money left over for the arts.