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ARTS COUNCIL FUNDING FROM APRIL 2023


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On 06/11/2022 at 17:37, MJW said:

Some interesting comments from Rupert Christiansen in The Spectator

 

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/arts-council-england-and-the-war-on-opera/ (this is usually behind a paywall but I was able to access it)

Good to see - if rather odd - RC doing a complete U turn on his previous article where he was the one actually proposing to close down or cut the grants of both ENO and ENB, and now trying to defend ENO! Perhaps he now regrets the error of his rhetoric, having gotten what he wished for. What RC, Nadine Dorries and many bureaucrats trying to transplant ENO onto a northern city forget is that you can’t force an art form onto a community or reproduce a creative organisation in a different location with different people just by uprooting or evicting an ensemble or throwing money at it, rather like some kind of alien kidnapping seen in films.

 

If you asked performers like Marianela Nunez,they talk about the Royal Opera House stage being special and having its own magic, and ballerinas at the Paris Opera have spoken of the Palais Garnier having its own magic too (something that visiting dancers have noted). It’s not the same as simply moving offices in a big corporation and going to another anonymous skyscraper.  But aside from the history and connection with special buildings such as the London Coliseum (which star ballerina Maria Alexandrova has said is one of her favourite theatres in the world- more so than Royal Opera House), transplanting arts companies to another city doesn’t always work. This isn’t an Amazon warehouse we’re talking about. Creativity can’t be forced. 

Edited by Emeralds
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While some of the actions that set in train the recent ACE actions may be laid at her door, I think it's probably worth a reminder that Nadine Dorries hasn't been in post as Culture Secretary since September and she was only there for a year. The current ACE "strategy" pre-dates her tenure.

 

I actually didn't find RC's article in contradiction with his earlier one. What he's railing against here is the idea that transplanting a company to the north is a fix - instead he proposes a merger of ENO and ETO.

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21 minutes ago, Pas de Quatre said:

Agreed, I often think of Yes Minister too. There is also an episode where there are plans to move some government departments to the North, and Sir Humphrey soon put a stop to that!

 

The Yes Minister episode "The Middle Class Rip-Off" is also very apt !

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2 hours ago, ChrisG said:

I know it’s not strictly ballet related but if any of you are concerned about the plight of ENO you might be interested in signing this petition - https://chng.it/NDtZmjKQyG

 

P.S. The petition was started by Bryn Terfel!

16,165 signatures already when I last looked again after signing yesterday- great to see singers like Bryn Terfel, Sarah Connolly and Nicky Spence being vocal in their opposition, with Simon Callow adding his support among many others. 

 

Just to add, although the ENO singers don’t dance ballets, the ENO Orchestra showed this year - twice and unexpectedly - what an outstanding ballet orchestra they are by playing unfamiliar repertoire to them (eg Don Quixote, Le Corsaire, Tchaikovsky pas de deux, etc) once for Ivan Putrov and  Alina Cojocaru’s Dance for Ukraine Gala, and again for United Ukrainian Ballet in their week of Giselle performances, so beautifully. So the ballet world definitely would not want them disbanded or scattered (not everyone can afford to uproot to  Manchester or some other “not London” region).

 

On 07/11/2022 at 19:46, Lizbie1 said:

While some of the actions that set in train the recent ACE actions may be laid at her door, I think it's probably worth a reminder that Nadine Dorries hasn't been in post as Culture Secretary since September and she was only there for a year. The current ACE "strategy" pre-dates her tenure.

 

I actually didn't find RC's article in contradiction with his earlier one. What he's railing against here is the idea that transplanting a company to the north is a fix - instead he proposes a merger of ENO and ETO.

Merging ENO & ETO is also a crazy and bad idea. That basically means many of ETO personnel will lose their jobs, as big company plus small company often means the directors  and creators in the smaller group get chucked out as they get swallowed up by the bigger institution. The two companies couldn’t be more different in their mission statements and both do excellent jobs. It’s like an arranged marriage forced on two unwilling people and one forced to give up his/her career to support the spouse’s job. A mixed bag of an article but at least he echoes what many have rightly pointed out are the illogicalities of such plans.

 

So moving to see the love for ENO from so many who signed the petition and wrote a note in support. I must say, every single time I’ve seen the ENO, whether or not I liked the production, I have always ended up spending far less than I planned on tickets (and still great sight lines), which is never the case for any other theatre, performing art or company! So far they have still scored better than RO in terms of productions I liked versus ones I didn’t. I’m going to book to see their award winning Akhnaten in case it’s lost to us forever.  And theirDie Tote Stadt, which has a gorgeous aria for the tenor, and hasn’t been mounted here since I started watching opera. Their Tosca was incredible (and I say that having seen Pavarotti as Cavaradossi, who was also incredible for the sheer beauty and mastery of his singing.)

 

 

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10 hours ago, alison said:

I heard there was a petition going on the ENO website - not sure whether or not it's the same as the one referred to above.

Yes, it’s the same as the one above. Over 22,000 signatures now and people are still signing- I spotted some journalists among the signatories too.

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I hate to sound a cynical note, but how many of those 22,000 people signing have turned up to an ENO performance more than once every few years?

 

It's very clear that ACE have bungled the whole thing appallingly (David Pountney's letter in the Times the other day benefits from focussing on this), but we shouldn't neglect to look to ourselves for the reason why it was seen as expendable - "use it or lose it".

 

(I've averaged three ENO performances per year over the last five full seasons, and have been aware for a while that its very large subsidy per performance was not justifiable by any normal measure.)

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They’re obviously not regular attendees but by the same token, more people follow, repost and respond with likes/loves/comments on the Royal Opera House social media pages who can’t actually attend than those who actually do. Conversely, many people who are regular attendees of ENO won’t sign a petition or write anything online, even if they attend it frequently. 

 

The Royal Opera does also have a lot of performances that don’t sell well at all. But the country has to have a place where the big name artists like Kaufmann, Di Donato, Fleming, Davidsen, Florez, Yoncheva, Calleja etc go- Glyndebourne and ENO can’t afford them. Glyndebourne is basically a private company and its Arts Council funding is for its touring work. These two companies aren’t affordable for many people on low to lower middle incomes (unless they want to sit only in seats where they can’t see the show), so ENO caters to a whole range of budgets. 

 

There are ways to maximise their revenue. Investing more in their digital output and streaming is one; having frequent recitals (which ROH used to do more) and regular galas for themselves (ironically the Coliseum hosts so many ballet galas for others) is another. I’d also like to see them doing more Britten, Tippett and Purcell. And more revivals of their Philip Glass operas. If marketed more confidently, their box office revenue will be a lot higher. They are quality productions which have won many awards. 

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ENO aside, I wonder what impact the cut in funding for the Royal Ballet, ENB and BRB will have on their output and ticket prices. Wonder if the RB ticket prices this season were raised because they anticipated/suspected they might get a cut in their subsidy. 

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6 hours ago, Emeralds said:

ENO aside, I wonder what impact the cut in funding for the Royal Ballet, ENB and BRB will have on their output and ticket prices. Wonder if the RB ticket prices this season were raised because they anticipated/suspected they might get a cut in their subsidy. 

 

BRB didn't have a cut to their funding this time...

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6 hours ago, Emeralds said:

ENO aside, I wonder what impact the cut in funding for the Royal Ballet, ENB and BRB will have on their output and ticket prices. 

 

The RB and ENB should look to be cutting infrastructure costs.

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Well yes, but that's hardly the same thing.  They at the time had significant financial support from the City council - there's no suggestion this time around that anything similar is expected, just a vague, wishywashy suggestion that ENO might be able to move to Manchester.  Manchester, which is already close to Opera North.  Manchester, the place the Royal Opera House were supposed to be opening a second venue in a few years back.  Whatever happened to that ...

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I've had numerous issues with the writer concerned in the past, but this does actually seem like a sensible and well-written article.  Perhaps it's just ballet she doesn't take an interest in.

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James O Brian on LBC is just at this moment doing a great job in supporting the Arts and peoples General need for culture and has just mentioned the ENO Grant situation and is doing a great job in speaking in support of them!! 

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17 hours ago, Jan McNulty said:

 

BRB didn't have a cut to their funding this time...

Thanks, Janet, you’re right- it was just RB & ENB I was thinking of. BRB had a marginal increase by 1.8% to £8,036,000 although cynics might argue that 1.8% doesn’t keep up with inflation so in real terms it’s like a cut! 

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Well, au contraire, I'm gradually seeing more value in this and I hope ENO do as well, in time:

 

  • Coli capacity may be seen as an albatross at 2,350 Victorian-era seats (peak ALW-sized); every production has to purport to be a blockbuster. The ROH's creation and use of the Linbury suggests the ENO is in a straight jacket. The future (and present) is not fixed-size 1902 musical halls but flexible spaces like, for example, Sadler's Wells / SW East, at 1,500 and 550. Purpose-built and not with some back alley to store your scenery in, and toilets for changing
  • The West End will eat up the Coli as a rental space, ENO can make a very decent return (or the Royal Albert Hall to manage, as per a purported Whitehall leak)
  • Model to follow is ENB -  a base camp (somewhere) from which they pollinate the world with goodness :)
  • With flexible spacing comes the potential for more productions (fewer eggs in the one, ungodly large basket)
  • No reason to think London will be served less well
  • Possibility/probability of contributions for relocation (cities offering building land, benefits)
  • Lower overheads, as well as regular income from the Coli
  • More effective outreach into areas not served

 

I'm just suggesting a case can be made ..

Edited by postie
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Well I think you are optimistic postie! 
I think a move out of London with so little financial support will lead to the end of the ENO which is why I signed the petition. 
A big move with proper financial support might just be feasible but it can only mean a reduction in the Company and less money with which to produce their performances and with no doubt a lot less money coming in from audiences paying to see them than would happen in London. 
They already do very good outreach work as do other opera companies not in London. 
I think the way the Arts Council is doing this could be construed as bullying as they are saying move out of London or else!! And this affects a lot of people and with almost immediate effect so hardly fair!! 
I know it is difficult to judge who should get money from the Arts Council but it seems a shame to lose a high quality opera Company like this with hardly any warning from a huge place like London. They need more time to properly research possibilities if expected to move out of London in my view. 


 

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16 hours ago, Henry said:

The move of Sadlers  Wells Royal Ballet to Birmingham seems to have been successful.  Would anyone now argue that it should have stayed at Sadlers Wells?   

The difference is that SWRB received an invitation to Birmingham, and crucially, money was offered to SWRB, as well as space and new purpose built facilities- the very thing that was missing from SW Theatre. If you’re comparing ENO with BRB, which is actually comparing chalk with cheese, ENO is being threatened with eviction and having their money taken away. 

 

1 hour ago, postie said:

Well, au contraire, I'm gradually seeing more value in this and I hope ENO do as well, in time:

 

  • Coli capacity may be seen as an albatross at 2,350 Victorian-era seats (peak ALW-sized); every production has to purport to be a blockbuster. The ROH's creation and use of the Linbury suggests the ENO is in a straight jacket. The future (and present) is not fixed-size 1920 musical halls but flexible spaces like, for example, Sadler's Wells / SW East, at 1,500 and 550. Purpose-built and not with some back alley to store your scenery in, and toilets for changing
  • The West End will eat up the Coli as a rental space, ENO can make a very decent return
  • Model to follow is ENB -  a base camp (somewhere) from which they pollinate the world with goodness :)
  • With flexible spacing comes the potential for more productions (fewer eggs in the one, ungodly large basket)
  • No reason to think London will be served less well
  • Possibility/probability of contributions for relocation (cities offering building land, benefits)
  • Lower overheads, as well as regular income from the Coli
  • More effective outreach into areas not served

etc ..

You can’t equate an opera company with a ballet company, any more than you can compare the running of a golf course and club with running a chess club.

 

Opera choruses don’t get a full time salary like corps de ballet dancers do- there are a small number of permanent posts in some companies but many chorus members nowadays are paid on a freelance basis (and I don’t mean freelance in terms of Pavarotti type pay....think of it as a zero hours contract but just slightly higher pay). Opera voices develop much later than dancers’ bodies so opera chorus and soloist singers are all university/conservatoire graduates, some with masters degrees, some with two or more master’s degrees, and can only start singing in their late twenties or even later, when they have student loans and mortgages to pay off, families to pay for. In fact most, opera singers only begin to become prominent at the same age that ballet dancers are starting to consider or finalise plans for their post retirement careers. The cost of running a decent opera company are huge.

 

ENO is also not a touring ensemble the way WNO, ETO and Opera North are- their raison d’etre is that they have a base, they want to use their base and their company to serve the community. Their productions are proper full scale operas like the RO main stage works. Think of it like ROH and the Royal Opera but much lower ticket prices. 

 

And the ENO are the only company that gives free tickets to under 21s without a postcode lottery or “means testing” - you don’t get that at ROH, who do have (sponsored) free shows but you have to fulfill very strict criteria. I know deserving individuals and families in London who have never “qualified” for free tickets for kids or the disabled at ROH, but they do at ENO and have attended. You can live out of town and still qualify at ENO, if you can make your way to London, eg by coach or a family railcard, etc. ENO also provides disabled access at all levels of their theatre (ROH does, but many other opera companies can’t). 

 

I wouldn’t be surprised if the government really wanted ENO to become like Garsington, Glyndebourne etc and become completely privatised and sold to some billionaire (hence the 100% cut in their grant rather than 30% or 50%) and despite their claims of levelling up, would actually prefer ENO to stop their levelling up activity (started by ENO before other opera companies followed suit) and stop giving out the free tickets and cheap seats. 

 

ENO has nurtured stars like Sarah Connolly who have gone on to become successes internationally -not just ROH. Remember the fairy tale news story of Claire Barnett Jones, a soprano who received a last minute “wild card” to participate at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition while working on her garden (because a competitor had developed Ccvid) and went on to win her round, get to the Final, and win the Audience Prize ? She was one of ENO’s trainees on their Harewood scheme (similar to ROH’s Aud Jebsen scheme for dancers and Jette Parker scheme for singers). And there are many more, but possibly not names that many forum members would be interested  in. 

 

Artistically, ENO is not a “cheapskate” or lower quality version of RO as the ticket prices might suggest. They have won the most Olivier awards for their productions and performances out of all the opera  companies, and are the only UK company to have productions of Philip Glass’s operas - which have also won acclaim and awards- as well as Jonathan Miller’s acclaimed and well-liked productions of La Boheme and The Mikado, and Anthony Minghella’s internationally acclaimed and popular  Madame Butterfly.

 

You can’t say that selling out the small  Linbury Theatre is a success while less than 100% sales  for the Coliseum is a failure. LT only has 394 seats while the Coli has 2359. If comparing numbers, then ENO beats the companies at the Linbury every night more than twice over. But it costs less per seat to put on a show at the Coliseum than at the ROH. Chucking ENO out of London with no home planned or even discussed with any city or county officials is not akin to SWRB to moving to Birmingham- it’s akin to evicting the Royal Ballet from London by saying the ROH will lose their entire grant of 22 million  pounds unless they throw out the Royal Ballet and send it somewhere that is not London or the South. When put that way, how would we really feel? Chills down the spine, I think, and not the good kind.

 

While we are obviously gasping at the news of ENO, for the purposes of this forum, what might be a more fruitful and informed discussion is what the implications of cuts to the Royal Ballet and ENB are. Would we lose ENB’s Sadler’s Wells premieres and have fewer new works (including new full length classics for ENB like Raymonda and Le Corsaire)? Would RB have to raise prices for Ashton and MacMillan triple bills and increase the numbers of Swan Lakes and Nutcrackers every year? 

Edited by Emeralds
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Btw, still trying to steer the conversation back to ballet (!) unlike ballet companies, the opera world is small and far from partisan. ENO’s soloists sing at WNO, ROH, Glyndebourne etc and are by no means limited only to ENO. Imagine Marianela Nunez or Marcelino Sambe also dancing for BRB, ENB and NB in the same year for a full production (not just guesting two nights). That’s one way the opera world is so different to ballet. 

 

When Jonas Kaufmann pulled out of Fidelio at ROH with a chest infection after the first night, his replacement was David Butt Philip, who was in between performances at ENO and Glyndebourne, and had learnt the role in Fidelio by singing it at Glyndebourne the previous summer, so he knew the score and arias but just needed to rehearse the staging. If ENO goes out of London and has to downsize, that leaves a smaller pool of singers for subs and replacements, which means potentially higher bills for ROH (which affects RB) to fly in a suitable sub from abroad. It’s down to the fact that voice types are not interchangeable (eg a tenor who can sing Don Jose in Carmen can’t also sing the lead in La Fille du Regiment- totally different voice type)  and that all the available ones in the city may be already engaged. An expense that will not be welcomed by the RB either! 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Emeralds
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