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English National Opera reveals 2014/15 season and slew of partnerships

- 29 April 2014

English National Opera has revealed its 2014/15 season along with a slew of collaborations and projects which suggest a company reinventing itself in the budget cut era.

After financial straits which saw the company raid its contingency budget to the tune of £2.2m in 2011/12, a rosier picture was presented by artistic director John Berry this morning, with 2013/14 showing a surplus ‘due to stronger than anticipated box office sales and buoyant co-production partnerships’.

‘Our wider initiatives are designed to foster close commercial partnerships, produce more work more efficiently, and attract new audiences ‒ all deliverable at a lower cost to the public purse,’ said Berry. ‘This plan will create a sustainable future for ENO, without compromising on the quality of our work, and will keep us at the forefront of the international opera world.’

These initiatives include a partnership with AltiveMedia for cinema screenings announced in February; a research partnership with University College London, beginning with PhD research into the future of live performance; a partnership with Michael Grade and Michael Linnit to produce musical theatre shows with ENO forces at the Coliseum during some of the 17 weeks that it would normally be rented out to external companies; and plans for a ‘purpose-built home for all the company’s rehearsal, production and administrative functions’ in an as yet undisclosed location.

Finally, John Berry, who recently confirmed that he will lead ENO’s executive team, as well as its artistic decision making, announced that a ‘seven-figure’ deal with a ‘respected restaurateur’ will create a foyer coffee shop open all day at the Coliseum, as well as redesigned restaurant and bar areas. ‘These enhancements are being planned as part of a wider refurbishment of the building’s public areas, which will improve the experience for audiences and other visitors to the London Coliseum.’

Speaking to the Independent this week, Berry said: ‘If you have tickets for £12, you know there is an amazing access point for experiencing this art form. … Of course, it’s all about audiences. But also we need to be giving better value for public money.

‘Thriving on change and being more entrepreneurial is absolutely the way forward. Our new plans mean we will be more entrepreneurial as an organisation, do more work more efficiently, reaching out to new audiences at less cost to the public purse. The days of asking for the same public subsidy to do the same thing, or to say if you cut us we will do less ‒ those days are over.’

The 2014/15 season press release follows:

From terrorism, invasion and despair through to miracles, enlightenment and joy, two millennia of history, four centuries of composition and ENO’s 16 dramatic productions together reveal the unique ability of opera to convey what it is to be human.

British talent features heavily across the season. Four productions are by British composers, including two world premieres by living British composers – Tansy Davies’s 9/11 inspired Between Worlds and Joanna Lee’s opera for children and families, The Way Back Home. Six British conductors take up the ENO baton, led by acclaimed ENO Music Director Edward Gardner conducting three new productions – Verdi’s Otello, Wagner’s The Mastersingers of Nuremberg and Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades. The work of eight British directors is featured, including the opera directorial debut of Mike Leigh with Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance.

Young British singing talent is also significant. Ten ENO Harewood Artists take 18 named roles across the season and singers from this programme assume all the major roles in Monteverdi’s Orfeo at Bristol Old Vic. Rhian Lois will play Atalanta (Handel’s Xerxes), Young Woman (Between Worlds) and Frasquita (Bizet’s Carmen); Mary Bevan is Susanna in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and Barnaby Rea sings Lodovico (Otello), Colline (Puccini’s La bohème) and Caronte (Orfeo).  In total, 27 principal roles will be played by past or present members of ENO vocal training schemes and 85 per cent of the talent on stage in 2014/15 will be British or British trained (more than 90 per cent including the chorus).

The season also features some of the world’s finest directors from opera, theatre and film. These include Peter Sellars, who returns to ENO for the first time since Nixon In China to become Director-in-Residence, leading two new works chosen for their profound connection and commitment to the English language, despite being written more than 300 years apart. John Adams’s The Gospel According to the Other Mary and Purcell’s The Indian Queen (which features mesmerising sets by the US graffiti artist Gronk) both give a strong voice to women, against a backdrop of violence and unrest, in tales traditionally told by men. During his five-month residency Sellars will also take part in a series of community projects, inspired by the themes and ideas in the two productions.

Richard Jones also directs two productions – Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West and The Mastersingers of Nuremberg – as does David Alden, who returns to ENO for Otello and The Queen of Spades. Fiona Shaw returns, as does Katie Mitchell who directs ENO’s first opera for children, The Way Back Home, based on the popular children’s book by Oliver Jeffers, and Deborah Warner, with her moving and uplifting account of one of the century’s most significant human events, the attacks on the World Trade Centre, in Between Worlds. While Tom Morris collaborates with a cast of ENO Harewood Artists, accompanied by the ENO orchestra, to stage Orfeo – one of the world’s oldest pieces of music theatre, in Bristol Old Vic – the UK’s oldest continuously working theatre.

Several major conductors make their ENO and UK debuts, including Keri-Lynn Wilson who conducts The Girl of the Golden West, Joana Carneiro (Music Director of the Berkeley Symphony) with The Gospel According to the Other Mary, and Baroque rising star Christopher Bucknall conducting Orfeo.

Internationally acclaimed talent includes incomparable Heldentenor Stuart Skelton as Otello; Alice Coote as Xerxes; Dame Felicity Palmer as The Countess in The Queen of Spades; Susan Bullock as Minnie in The Girl of the Golden West; Iain Paterson, Gwyn Hughes-Jones and Wendy Bryn-Harmer (in a UK debut) in The Mastersingers of Nuremberg and Grammy Award-winning Jonathan Lemalu in The Pirates of Penzance.

Otello (Verdi) ‒ 13 Sept ‒ 17 Oct, 10 performances. ENO Screen live cinema relay 14 Oct.
Xerxes (Handel) ‒ 15 Sept ‒ 3 Oct, 6 performances
The Girl of the Golden West (Puccini) ‒ 2 Oct ‒ 1 Nov, 9 performances
The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart) ‒ 16 Oct ‒ 23 Nov, 11 performances
La bohème (Puccini) ‒ 29 Oct ‒ 6 Dec, 14 performances
The Gospel According to the Other Mary (Adams) ‒ 21 Nov ‒ 5 Dec, 6 performances
The Way Back Home (Joanna Lee) ‒ 11 Dec ‒ 23 Dec (performed at the Young Vic). ENO Screen live cinema relay from December 2014
The Mastersingers of Nuremberg (Wagner) ‒ 7 Feb ‒ 10 Mar 2015, 8 performances
La traviata (Verdi) ‒ 9 Feb ‒ 13 March 2015, 9 performances. ENO Screen live cinema relay 11 Mar
The Indian Queen (Purcell) ‒ 26 Feb ‒ 14 Mar 2015, 8 performances
Between Worlds (Tansy Davies) ‒ Opens 11 Apr 2015, 8 performances (performed at The Barbican)
Orfeo (Monteverdi) ‒ Opens 16 April 2015, 7 performances (performed at Bristol Old Vic)
The Pirates of Penzance (Gilbert & Sullivan) ‒ Opens 9 May 2015, 19 performances. ENO Screen live cinema relay 19 May
Carmen (Bizet) ‒ Opens 20 May 2015, 14 performances. ENO Screen live cinema relay 1 July
The Queen of Spades (Tchaikovsky) ‒ Opens 6 June 2015, 9 performances

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