I'm not a great fan of too much opera, but my friend is, and he tells me that ENO are gradually losing funding from the arts council, and being persuaded to move to Manchester. This seems not to be sensible, as there is little in the way of concert space free/available, as far as I can see. Plus what about the competition with ENO North?
I wonder if this is connected with the opening of the new venue Factory International next summer?
It certainly seems to be true that DCMS (especially under SoS Nadine Dorries) has been one of the few departments to take "levelling up" seriously, with a substantial shift of Arts Council funding away from London.
This is both meat for the far right who are against subsidy on principle and a good piece of propaganda for the red wall. Opera has an image problem in the UK which makes it an easy target: it’s branded as only for the rich (even in unsubsidised theatres, you can find tickets for less than a premiership football match), elitist (no objective reason why, the tunes are marvellous and in Italy everyone goes), and white (from experience, the ENO audience is considerably more diverse than at a Radiohead concert). Populist politicians love to put the boot in: look at the kerfuffle when Angela Rayner dared to go to Glyndbourne.
The relocation is effectively killing off ENO disguised as levelling up. Opera North already cover Manchester and struggle with sales there; the Royal Opera attempted to put on shows at the Palace Theatre a few years ago but couldn't make it work. Sadly, there doesn’t appear to be a market for a full-time opera company in Manchester so the orchestra, chorus and most staff will lose their jobs. The £17 million will cover redundancies and paying off Covid closure debts and leave very little for anything else.
This isn’t levelling up: in five years there will be no ENO, no extra money taken from London and given to Manchester, and certainly nothing extra for national parks.
I agree with your whole first paragraph. But
Opera North already cover Manchester and struggle with sales there
Is this right? When I’ve been it was full. And Salford Quays is a less convenient and attractive location than central Manchester (where we’re speculating ENO would be).
Last night I was not aware that Nadine Dorries had directed the arts council to direct things further north and wider. I caught up with this idea, when I caught the end of an article on Front Row on Radio 4 this evening. I aim to go back and listen to the full article on Sounds, as it may help to understand the situation.
Comparison was made of a successful move of Sadler's Wells Ballet to Birmingham, But they said that that was a much more organised, planned move, whereas the ENO direction seems to have been just a thought, without planning or reasonable logic.
In terms of levelling up, then how does cutting Welsh National Opera funding by 35% help, since a lot of their funding goes to help touring to places like Bristol?
> I'm not a great fan of too much opera [...]
I listened to this - presented by Nadine Benjamin - last night, as a potential way into opera. I suspect most of the series will focus on soprano roles* It ended with Isolde’s Liebestod (Wagner’s Tristan) – a favourite ...
Opera, the Art of Emotions: Episode 1 [of 3] - Pain, Suffering and Torment: In this opening episode, Nadine draws on her own experience as an operatic soprano and mind coach to uncover the methods that composers from Rameau and Lully to Puccini and Wagner have used to draw audiences to empathise with their characters' suffering.
* it’s only the male (operatic) voice that I struggle with – just a couple of examples in Episode 1
There's a good article about this today in the Manchester subscription based news site "The Mill", which confirms my suspicion that the hope of Manchester's authorities is that the location for a Manchester based ENO would be the new Manchester arts venue Factory International. It also gives quite a balanced perspective on the relationship with ENO North and whether Manchester could provide a market for a resident opera company. I don't really have a strong view on that not being much of an opera lover myself, but a priori it seems plausible that a city of Greater Manchester's size (2.8 million), with some fairly prosperous suburbs & neighbouring regions like East Cheshire, should be able to generate those audiences.
I don't know the details of the Arts Council allocations to Welsh National Opera or anywhere else; I wouldn't start out with a presumption of huge consistency of principle in dividing up the money.
Sir Nicholas Serota (why the knighthood?), was pathetic in the article on Radio 4, pretending not to hear the interviewer, Samira Ahmed, and stumbling into very poor explanations of what he had done as head of The arts council, in the next round of their awards to various arts organisations.
BBC managed to relocate quite a bit to Salford and despite all the inital grief..its worked well. I can see no reason why ENO cannot be relocated especially with the new Factory International.
I was out in Ancoats on Saturday night I can recommend the Edinburgh castle as an excellent pub near that new Halle building. Some great stuff in that area and of course there is that Michelin restaurant there.
Easily plausiable that it could be a great move.
> I agree with your whole first paragraph. But
> Opera North already cover Manchester and struggle with sales there
> Is this right? When I’ve been it was full. And Salford Quays is a less convenient and attractive location than central Manchester (where we’re speculating ENO would be).
My source is a Halle violinist. I really hope I'm/they're wrong. If their tremendous Ring Cycle is representative, Opera North should be selling-out everywhere. You probably know this but sometimes audiences can be inflated by papering the house: giving away tickets free - to NHS staff for example - to get a buzz going for the show.
Cultural organisations can move out of London very successfully - English National Ballet to Birmingham, 5Live to Salford - when the process is thought through, planned, and properly consulted. The ENO decision has none of these. As Richard J says, in time, there could be an audience in the area if they are given the support to build it. There are no signs this will happen. Serota is washing his hands, as chair of ACE he has ultimate responsibility for the shambolic governance of ENO over the last 5 years including hiring a CEO with no arts management experience (who resigned 2 weeks ago, quelle surprise). Starmer is my MP and he's a very competent individual but has little personal interest and is too keen to polish his man-of-the-people credentials to support opera if he gains power.
On a personal note, I'd like to move to the north west and I’d be delighted if there was a thriving ENO in Manchester. I suspect that, sadly, I'll be getting the train down to London for my fix.
> Starmer is my MP and he's a very competent individual but has little personal interest and is too keen to polish his man-of-the-people credentials to support opera if he gains power.
He might have an interest: from the Wiki (if you believe Wikipedia) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keir_Starmer
"He was a junior exhibitioner at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama until the age of 18, and played the flute, piano, recorder and violin"