Tag Archives: New Season

ENO season launch 2015/2016 live tweeting extravaganza

21 Apr

ENO Season Launch 1516Tomorrow morning between 10.00 and 11.00 the English National Opera will hold its annual season launch. Like the last three years I am present and will relay the news as it breaks. Below you will see a live stream of my tweets and even further down will be tracking the official hashtag used by ENO for reactions by other twitterati. Join in the fun!

My tweets



My blog posts on the previous three launches

2012/13:  https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/eno-201213-season-and-the-broader-london-context/

2013/14:  https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/season-launch-by-an-eye-witness/

2014/15:  https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/eno-season-launch-20142015/

ENO Season Launch 2014/2015

30 Apr

ENO new season 1415Yesterday morning the English National Opera launched their new season as the last two years I popped in to see what the company has in store for the next year. The usual pitch by John Berry surely felt more confident but it was definitely missing the customary report on finances, which was relegated to a page in the press pack. But at least we had the chance to meet the new Chief Executive that was only appointed a few weeks back.

The overall artistic decisions are what seems a fight back on the criticism the company has received over the last few years. The performances at this season will increase to 170 from a measly 123 the past season. Which is clearly making the public subsidy seem better value than usual. For the first time in years the company will venture out of London (they do tour abroad individual productions from time to time, like Death in Venice to Dutch National Opera) but the presentation of Orfeo at Bristol’s Old Vic is a great idea and maybe opening the opportunity for more flexibility in future seasons.

The programming is a better mix, acknowledging the continuum of the medium and integrating baroque into the main offering, unlike the Royal Opera who farms out baroque like an embarrassment. In addition two new operas have been commissioned by two young female composers (Tansy Davies and Joanna Lee) which can only be a good thing after most prominent commissions going to the old boys network as a matter of cause. The season is also notable for the UK conducting debuts of Keri-Lynn Wilson (The Girl OF the Golden West) and Joana Carneiro (The Gospel According to the Other Mary) which again gives a glimmer of hope more women will be conducting in our opera houses and orchestras in the near future. So much so to make the news of such debuts non newsworthy.

The directing gene pool at ENO hasn’t been replenished this time round with many of the usual suspects showing up once more and even  two productions each for David Alden and Richard Jones. But the return of Peter Sellars as the Director-in-residence is great news and will hopefully help sell tickets for his two productions. But getting Mike Leigh to direct The Pirates of Penzance is a much safer choice than many previous rookie opera director appointments. He has a well known love of Gilbert and Sullivan and it is very strongly cast.

The John Berry 360 degree policy change on broadcasting opera from the Coliseum that became ENO Screen continues with five productions this season (Otello/The Way Back Home/La Traviata/The Pirates of Penzance/Carmen). Apparently they are putting £1m to support that programme.

There was bemusement at the mention of Secret Seat and Opera Undressed initiatives. Which have not convinced most bystanders and commentators, including myself, that they are good value for money and that they increase new audiences. The 28% of ex Opera Undressed ticket buyers getting full price (I wonder) tickets is fairly negligible when you think of the damage of the ever-increasing prices, particularly for the cheaper seats at Balcony and Upper Circle levels. ENO does cover a niche for London operavores that will not be too willing to pay £155 for a Stalls seat. The management has to acknowledge that fact and find a better way to deploy their subsidy. So instead of making it into a lottery like those aforementioned schemes if the prices at Balcony were halved then more people who would think twice before buying tickets would give them a chance.

At least it was good that they managed to balance the books (with a large donation by a member of the board and another bail our by the Arts Council) and reported and increase of paid audience capacity from 62% in 2012/13 to %69 in 2013/14. The steady income from co-productions was also mentioned to be healthy which is great news.

Overall I think the ENO is turning a corner and despite the fact in the new leadership reshuffle John Berry is left as the sole despot of the company, at least he has reversed on some of his most silly ideas around cinema broadcasts and started to revive productions from before his tenure. Such as Nicholas Hytner’s outstanding Xerxes. Hope next season they can dig a bit more in the archive and try to revive more past successful productions and be as measured with new productions as they seem to have been this time.

A lot of online gossip centred on their announced venture into commercial co-productions with Michael Grade and Michael Linnit (who were also present at the launch) I think we’d better stay calm and see what their first collaboration will be and then we can see more clearly what they are trying to do with musical theatre. After all the Coliseum originated as a variety theatre and the black line between opera and musical theatre is still some strange apartheid that needs to be abolished.

You will find the full season listings on the following page: http://www.eno.org/news/listing-14-15

The season trailer


Some tweets from the launch

ENO 2013/2014 Season launch by an eye witness

10 May

ENO 2013-14The English National Opera seems to be a uniquely polarising company when it comes to critical opinion and bloggers in the UK. Most are very happy to point out its faults (most of the criticisms if inverted could be used against the Royal Opera rather easily, when it comes to programming) and all its missteps. I was invited to the launch for a second year and it was interesting to mark the change in atmosphere. Lots of vocal critics of the company are too happy to castigate the inadequacies of the arts journalists and their apparent failure to address burning questions on the financials and the artistic decisions there. What of course they make no allowance for is for all the things that ENO does very well and in some cases is a leader in the field. Frequently the feelings of overwhelming hurt uttered by some people online  make me wondering what their true motives are.

A press conference is not the place to ask probing questions on the financial state of the company but surely a good place to try to discern what the atmosphere is like and to try to see beneath the veneer of rehearsed confidence.  This time the managing trio of Gardner/Berry and Tomasi were surely much more subdued overall but clearly wanted to give an upbeat flavour to the announcements.

ENO has been a director led house since the 1980s with a more edgy outlook. If that is not what you want out of opera then maybe don’t waste your breath on complaining like a demented person. I am sure hearing Christopher Alden and Calixto Bieito call ENO an institution that understands their needs and becomes a base of sorts for them, must be like a red rag for the pithily referred to “regietheatre”. Like it or not, directors like Pierre Audi, Bieito, Richard Jones, David McVicar and the two Aldens have made an indelible mark in the operatic world of the last twenty years and no amount of circle jerking over tired productions by Zeffirelli and Ponelle will change that. Move on with the times or move along.

It is well known that John Berry likes to draw theatre, film and artists to collaborate into their first operatic directions. Some of them have been very successful, like the Anthony Minghella Madama Butterfly and Terry Gilliam’s staging of  Le Damnation de Faust and some have bombed like last year’s Giulio Cesare by Michael Keegan-Dolan. It seems like a luxury for many but it seems also intricately linked to the current artistic outlook of the company. This season he has invited Joe Hill-Gibbons, a theatre director by trade to try his hand at opera with Powder her Face.

The vehement anti-ENO brigade seems to be too unwilling to acknowledge that they have artist development schemes for conducting, instrumental playing, libretto writing, singing and a newly announced young house composers scheme. They seem serious about opening the doors to more creatives into the world of opera and that can surely be a positive development for the future of the art form.

The financial state of ENO is apparently improving with the deficit down by two thirds (£800.000) and box office intake rising to £1.3m.  The somber tone of their CEO Loretta Tomasi was indicative of taking seriously the situation and explained that they were successful into applying for a £3m fund (Catalyst Arts) from the Arts Council that hey have to match with a fundraising drive of £6m, which it stands currently at 85%. This expendable endowment will be used to fund production costs, which seems like a sound way to use it. The only alarming aspect was her emphasis not to be too over-optimistic if there is another funding cut by the government this June (it seems likely to be another 10% cut in tune with current government policy). Of course what is worrying is that the current losses are essentially wiping out their reserves. And while the Catalyst programme is a great idea it will not pay the staff or any other day to day costs of the operation.

Unfortunately they did not announce any changes to the core ticket prices just the continuation of the (rather naff) Opera Undressed scheme and the increase of ticket allocation from 100 to 200 per eligible performance. They seemed happy that 26% of participants in the scheme returned for more ENO shows.  Also they announced the launch of Secret Seats (£20 paid and a seat allocated two days before the performance with a value of £27 or more, with Stalls and Dress Circle seats also part of it). That pushes the overall seats available for under £40 by 40% but of course it doesn’t address the constant discounts of top price seats and the all too infrequent sell outs.

The programme they announced is a mix of some reliable revivals, like David Alden’s Peter Grimes (with a starry cast) Penny Woolcock’s Pearl Fishers (with an enticing cast) Anthony Minghella’s Madama Butterfly and their much lauded Phelim McDermott production of Satyagraha which will shift a lot of tickets. The more searching and artistically dangerous/ambitious productions may come to grief ENO’s management in the coming months. but personally I am looking forward to the following:

Terry Gilliam’s take on Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini. Gilliam will come up with some odd ball ideas and the accomplished cast with Edward Gardner conducting should make it an enticing evening.

Calixto Bieito’s Fidelio will be an interesting proposition, especially the nights when Stuart Skelton is singing the lead.

Richard Jones’ take on Rodelinda, remarkably, only his second Handel direction to date, will surely be memorable and with a great cast. ENO’s time to prove that they can live up to their reputation for being the London House for Handel. And make us forget of that awful Cesare.

Julian Anderson’s Thebans directed by Pierre Audi will be an interesting new work. Gardner said at the press conference that it has some remarkable writing for the chorus, which is frankly a good omen for a work based on Greek drama.

Thomas Adès’ Powder her Face in a new production by opera first timer Joe Hill-Gibbins in a site specific staging away from the confines of the Coliseum is an intriguing prospect.
In the least desirable corner, my pick is the new Cosi fan Tutte (who knew we needed another new staging in London) especially when it’s libretto will be tortured by Martin Crimp.
Overall the programming is giving me a lot of fascinating productions to look forward to and many hours of Twitter fun while I’m trying to have a reasonable conversation why the company has something interesting to say aside for the odd turkey here and there. At least they have the balls to take artistic risks, just wish their financial standing was much more solid.
The season trailer
A few tweets from the launch

Wigmore Hall 2012/13 what to book for!

15 Jun

Occasional readers and Twitter followers will know how much I love the Wigmore Hall and whose programming is an ever evolving parade of well known names and hot young talent. Thought I’d be a good idea to mention some of the interesting events coming up in the next 10+ months and in a way to encourage many more people to book for this wonderful, intimate venue. If you thing classical music, baroque, song are intimidating genres, there is no better place to dip your toes in. Central London’s village hall.

Song recitals, opera, vocal

12 September 7.30
Roderick Williams
The exciting young baritone is worth catching in recital, he will be singing songs by 12 composers on the theme of travel. Accompanied by pianist Gary Matthewman

20 September 7.30
Ferrier Centenary Celebration Concert
Alice Coote and Graham Johnson will pay tribute to the contralto Kathleen Ferrier. Coote is surely one of the greatest mezzo sopranos gracing the planet and any appearance becomes a big event. Look out for returns for this one!

8 October 1.00
Jennifer Johnston
These lunchtime recitals are only an hour long and are transmitted live on BBC Radio 3. A great introduction to the hall and song repertoire and also a great platform from fresh young talent like Johnston

18 October 7.30
Susan Bickley+Roderick Williams+Mark Braithwaite+Iain Burnside
As part of the ‘Frank Bridge Song Focus’ series. A bunch of excellent vocalists with the always wonderful Iain Burnside, you can’t go wrong with this one.

5 November 1.00
Angelika Kirchschlager
Another lunchtime treat with the wonderful Austrian mezzo singing an all Schumann recital. Worth taking the day off to be there.

16 November 7.30
Christian Gerhaler
The German baritone has a great affinity for Schubert’s music and this recital with Gerold Huber will be a wonderful treat.

20 November 7.30
Birgid Steinberger+Angelika Kirchschlager+Ian Bostridge+Christopher Maltman+Julius Drake
An all Schubert programme by this crack team of singers under the brilliant Julius Drake.

22 November 7.30
Britten Sinfonia+Jacqueline Shave+Alice Coote
My bias is obvious but another Alice Coote recommendation the programme is mouthwatering.

27 November 7.30
Handel’s Altos – Music for countertenor and castrato
Iestyn Davies+Ensemble Matheus+Jean-Christophe Spinosi
A recital of Handel stage cantatas and opera arias with some Telemann as the binding medium. Davies is a much in demand star and as part of his residency he will take part in 4 recitals so it will be easier to get tickets than the last few times!

2 December 7.30
Joan Rodgers+Elizabeth Watts+Allan Clayton+Gerald Finley+Julius Drake+ Malcolm Martineau
Just look at the singers and the repertoire is an all Britten affair. Hunt down those returns!

4 December 7.30
Nash Ensemble+Sandrine Piau+John Mark Ainsley+Rickard Watkins+Lawrence Power+Martyn Brabbins
Another all Britten affair, this time Piau will tackle Les Illuminations and Ainsley will contribute to Serenade Op.35 under Brabbins it should be a memorable evening.

14 December 7.30
The Cardinall’s Musick+Andrew Carwood+Alistair Hogarth
This trendy vocal ensemble sing Britten’s late choral works. It promises to be a beautiful evening

23 December 7.00
Handel: Messiah
Classical Opera Orchestra+Sophie Bevan+Christopher Ainslie+Allan Clayton+Jacques Imbrailo+Ian Page
An exceptional cast of young singers will make me book this, despite the seasonal boredom of another Messiah.

4 January 2013 7.30
French Song Series: In the shadow of the Opéra
Lucy Crowe+Christopher Maltman+Graham Johnson
A programme of songs by Bizet, Gounod, Saint-Saëns and Hahn with a plucky pair of singers, it should be a delight.

6 January 2013 7.30
The Hugo Wolf Songbooks
Angelika Kirchschlager+Dietrich Henschel+Julius Drake
A great chance to hear the Morike and Goethe songbooks…a great way to spend a Sunday evening.

11 January 2013 7.30
Marlis Petersen+Jendrick Springer
Recital of settings of Goethe’s poetry sang by a great singer.

11 February 2013 7.30
Monteverdi –  Selva Morale E Spirituale
The Sixteen+Harry Christophers
Some early music indulgence

18 February 2013 7.30
French Song Series: Masques et Bergamasques
Ailish Tynan+Yann Beuron+Graham Johnson
Paul Verlaine poetry set by Faure, Bordes, Debussy, Dupont and Koechlin with a dynamic young team under the wing of Graham Johnson.

3 March 2013 4.00
Benedict Nelson+Malcolm Martineau
Programme yet to be decided but a good time to see this young baritone in action.

17 March 2013 4.00
Sophie Bevan+Sebastian Wybrew
A very eclectic programme from Purcell to Barber via Wolf.  It will be wonderful to have this luminous young star soprano sing Barber’s Hermit Songs.

4 April 2013 7.30
Karita Mattila+Ville Matvejeff
A selection of songs by Poulenc, Debussy, Sallinen and Marx. A rare chance to see her sing in such an intimate venue.

12 April 2013 7.30
French Song Series: The Lure of Beyreuth
Sarah Connolly+John Mark Ainsley+Graham Johnson
Seeing Connolly sing French repertoire is always a treat. Also a chance to see Connolly with Malcom Martineau on 1 May 2013 and with Julius Drake on 20 July 2013.

15 April 2013 7.30
Allan Clayton
One of the most wonderful new voices and glad we will have the chance to see him sing here after having to cancel his last engagement.

9 May 2013 7.30
Anna Caterina Antonacci+Accademia Degli Astrusi
Any recital by Anna Cata is a must attend occasion…be prepared to look out for returns as members will hoover the tickets in advance

1 June 2013 7.30
Christopher Maltman+Julius Drake
A chance to see them get their way with Eisler’s Hollywood Songbook.

Orchestral / Instrumental

7 November 7.30
Jeremy Denk
He’s been making critical splashes of late and this  is a great chance to see him live and playing Liszt and Brahms. Tickets are only £10 it would be rude not to.

8 November 7.30
Nelson Freire
One of the truly great pianists and one that doesn’t visit London that frequently. A definite must see.

10 December 1.00
Barry Douglas
A wonderful pianist playing Brahms and Schumann surely it will lighten up a dreary December day in London town.

24 March 2013 7.30
Viktoria Mullova+Kristian Bezuidenhout
A programme of Beethoven sonatas by the estimable all action duo. Their last performance at the WH was tremendous.

22 April 2013 1.00
Elisabeth Leonskaja
Having the noted Russian pianist play Tchaikovsky is a luxury that has to be indulged.

27 May 2013 7.30
Adam Walker+James Baillieu
The young Adam stepped in the last minute at a recent Karina Gauvin recital (to replace Andrea Oliva) and was truly charming and engaging. Glad he’s been given his own date.

31 May 2013 7.30
Christophe Rousset
Any opportunity to see him live has to be grabbed…

17 June 2013 1.00
Benjamin Grosvenor
Decca’s recent signing takes part in this lunch time recital as he hasn’t played that much since the release of his album worth catching.

Add on all the above the just transferred Rosenblatt Recitals which open at WH with the tremendous Lawrence Brownlee on 24 September!

Hope the above list will prove useful and if any readers haven’t been to the Hall to find a concert you’d like to sample.

ENO 2012/13 Season announcement and the broader context

26 Apr

Up to this point a lot of news items on the new season at English National Opera have been written, many of them by people who were not even at the press conference. Just recycling stock quotes from press releases in a newsroom or idle blog speculation. Since I had the chance to be at the launch, it makes sense to expand beyond a list of operas coming up this and next year at the Coliseum.

The main stand out feature of the launch was how John Berry, Loretta Tomasi and Edward Gardner emphasised the new artist schemes at ENO. At a time when the public subsidy (£1.8m less from the Arts Council) and discretionary spending by the core audience have gone down, this is a savvy tactic. Developing the future opera stars of the next 20 years has been part of the course but right now it seems as an additional way to relieve financial pressure. The investment in the schemes for new composers, orchestral musicians, outreach, young singers and conductors adds to both the artistic vitality of the company but also to balancing the books in the long run. A lot of tweeps and bloggers weighed in that the three Jonathan Miller revivals were maybe too much. Of course they are not in the directorial team’s shoes trying to balance creative adventure and reliable box office returns. Either we like it or not, Miller’s safe staging of The Mikado and La Boheme will be a good seller under any circumstances. That is a certainty an opera company under financial pressure needs. The same applies to the absence of Wagner from the season. With a plethora of expensive (and largely pointless) Ring cycles all over the world, the opera market is more saturated than even with Wagner’s work. Committing significant resources to staging it at ENO would have clearly meant that more adventurous commissions and more core repertoire would have to be shelved. Something the Royal Opera did last season with a non ending almost four-month marathon of Traviatas that filled the gap of two new productions that got cancelled. The directorial team at Covent Garden seem to follow a far too safe and essentially more dull strategy of bums on seats in the expense of repertoire expansion and excitement.

ENO had been taking risks in the last few seasons that have kept  international collaboration at the forefront (currently their productions are travelling to over 30 other houses around the world). On balance, for every outright turkey like Two Boys there have been a Castor & Pollux, The Death of Klinghoffer and Jacob Lenz to balance it. As an opera fan I’d rather they took calculated risks with new repertoire than giving us 99 performances of a dull revival with uneven casts. Even when Covent Garden tried to emulate the ways of the ENO, we ended up with an ill-fitting Rusalka and a thoroughly disappointing Miss Fortune. The RO may think it’s the premier London opera company, but they have been delivering low artistic returns. Depending largely on starry casts and flaccid productions that don’t cut it in the 21st century. The latest Olivier Awards were hopefully a slap in the face for Sir Antonio Pappano and Kasper Holten and a stark reminder how shallow both their young artist programme and their recent artistic choices have been.

A sour little article by Rupert Christiansen showed up (and they seem to be an annual tradition) that did both a disservice to his intelligence and the great work ENO has done in the last few years. Gardner and Berry have both raised the musical and programming standards at the Coliseum but also look at opera as an art form with a vibrant present and a future. If one idly glances at the cast lists of the two institutions, it is obvious that the young artists at the RO are filling background bit parts in a number of productions with little consequence. Over at ENO the newly established Harewood Artists are entrusted with big roles in major repertoire pieces like The Magic Flute and La Boheme, giving them a great platform for exposure and adding excitement to frequent opera goers with the possibility to discover new British talent at the start of their professional career. Here’s the list of the ENO Harewood Artists for the 2012/13 season and roles they will take on:

Mary Bevan (Yum Yum)
Katherine Broderick (Donna Anna, Berta)
Elizabeth Llewellyn (First Lady, Michaela)
Rhian Lois (Papagena, Nerine)
Julia Sporsén (Julietta)
Kate Valentine (Mimi, La Boheme)
Catherine Young (Second Lady)
Ben Johnson (Don Ottavio, Alfredo)
Nicky Spence (singing in Billy Budd that closes 2011/12 season)
Benedict Nelson (Figaro, Evangelist)
Duncan Rock (Papageno, Morales)
George von Bergen (Obstinate, Herald, Lord Hategood)

They also announced that the first recipient of the Charles Mackerras Fellowship is Gergely Madaras who has been under the wing of Sir Mark Elder at the Hallé and will be immersed in the operatic repertoire for the next year leading up to his conducting debut with the company. The new Composer in Residence is Ryan Wigglesworth whom Berry called a major talent and a marvellous conductor. He commended his passion for writing for voices and his interest in opera. In the next four years he will hopefully write his first opera for the company.

Some of the pairings of director and work are rather interesting,  Yoshi Oida + Vaughan Williams / Michael Keegan Dolan with Fabulous Beast + Handel / McVicar + Charpentier. We were also promised a reworking of the Geneva staging by Richard Jones of Julietta and by Calixo Beito for a re-imagining of his Carmen from the Liceu (he will apparently come to London for the full rehearsal period). The two new commissions by Philip Glass and Michel van der Aa sound also interesting on paper, Glass’s The Perfect American will be a full scale opera on the last years of Walt Disney’s life. It will be a co-production with Teatro Real. Van Der Aa’s  Sunken Garden will be a smaller scale piece, staged at the Barbican’s Theatre. Incorporation of 3d and 2d film with live action, a co-production with Luminato Festival, Toronto / Opera de Lyon and the Holland Festival.

A number of notable conductors will be working during this season, like Martyn Brabbins (Pilgrim) Christian Curmyn (Cesare + Medea) and Nicholas Collon (Don Giovanni).

The season contains some varied and strong programming with young casts that will give their best to make an impression. Just hope the house will sell better across the board and not depend on generous discounts for bums on seats (something the Royal Opera has done a lot too, lately). The ENO has to continue to punch above its weight to keep itself relevant and to live up to its self-definition as the home of contemporary opera in London.

Read more

The Telegraph’s Rupert Christiansen on the launch of Harewood Singers

Gramophone on the Charles Mackerras Fellowship

ENO’s page of all the upcoming productions

The 2012/13 season announcement by the Royal Opera

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