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Latest News

English National Opera chief executive resigns

30 January 2015, London, UK

The screw has tightened another notch around English National Opera’s beleagured board with the announcement of the resignation today of the opera company’s executive director Henriette Götz after only 9 months in the job. Her departure comes just a week after ENO’s chairman Martyn Rose said that he would be stepping down from the board on 15 February following very public and acrimonious criticism of John Berry, ENO’s artistic director.

Götz held the post of executive director for Flemish Opera, based in Antwerp and Ghent, for five years before joining ENO in May last year. Her predecessor Loretta Tomasi left the ENO in December 2013 after 10 years with the company.

In the months that intervened after Tomasi left and before Götz’s appointment, the role of executive director was changed substantially from a power-sharing arrangement with the artistic director to a more subservient role, as John Berry widened his executive powers to include ENO’s commercial as well as artistic portfolio. Some commentators saw this as pointing to megalomaniac tendencies in Berry’s leadership style.

Götz’s sudden departure (she will leave on 28 February) is another sign that ENO’s management contains serious divisions at a time when the company faces a major restructuring in the wake of the drastic reduction of its Arts Council Grant by almost 30 per cent.

Following the appointment of board member Dr Harry Brünjes as interim chairman, another ENO board member, Anthony Whitworth-Jones, will step into Götz’s shoes until a successor can be found. Whitworth-Jones brings years of experience of running international opera companies to bear in his interim role, including a recent stint as general manager of Garsington Opera.

An announcement from ENO has stated that neither Henriette Götz nor the ENO board will be commenting on the latest developments. So far, there has been no suggestion that the board is wavering from its support of John Berry, though there is now intense pressure on the artistic director and ENO’s trustees to set out a viable creative and financial plan that will restore public confidence in ENO’s future.

Arts Council England, meanwhile, will be convening next week to discuss current developments. In spite of the cuts, ENO still remains accountable to the Arts Council for £12m of public funding a year as well as a one-off transitional grant of £7.6m to help it restructure its business.



ENO chair’s resignation reveals boardroom rift

26 January 2015, London, UK

John Berry: 'the problem rather than the solution' for ENO?
John Berry: 'the problem rather than the solution' for ENO?(Photo © ENO)

The resignation of Martyn Rose as chairman of English National Opera will come as no surprise to those who have observed the growing personal animosity between him and John Berry, ENO’s artistic director.

The reasons for Rose’s resignation, after just two years as chairman, were detailed in a frank letter to the ENO’s president, Sir Vernon Ellis, reportedly sent in December and subsequently leaked to the press. In the letter, Rose pulls no punches over Berry’s role in ENO’s current woes, accusing him of being responsible for losses of £10m. In the letter’s coup de grâce, he warns that he regards Berry as the ‘problem, not the solution’ to safeguarding ENO’s future at a time when the company has to look afresh at its business model, following a drastic 29 per cent reduction in the company’s annual Arts Council grant, which now stands at £12.4m.

ENO’s board has stood behind Berry, and the company has issued a statement that it does not recognise the losses quoted in Rose’s letter, adding that ENO is ‘on course to present a balanced budget’ in the current financial year. This however, has been achieved with the help of one-off transitional funding of £7.6m from Arts Council England (ACE), and with the axing of its production of Orfeo at Bristol Old Vic this season.

ACE, meanwhile, was emphatic that the decision to cut ENO’s grant was not influenced by its chairman Sir Peter Bazalgette who was Rose’s predecessor at ENO until 2012. An ACE spokesperson said, ‘Sir Peter was not able to discuss or be part of the ENO decisions because of his former role at ENO.’

Rose will stand down as chairman on 15 February. ENO board member Harry Brunjes has been appointed interim chairman until a successor can be found.

Read our full interview with John Berry in Opera Now's March issue

UPDATE - ENO'S EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR STEPS DOWN

ENO's Executive Director, Henriette Götz, has given her notice to the company's board and will step down on 28 February 2015. A brief statement by acting chair Dr Harry Brünjes praised Götz's 'passion and commitment', but both parties remained tight-lipped about the motives behind her decision: 'Henriette Götz and English National Opera have agreed that they shall not be making any further comment in respect of this matter.'

Anthony Whitworth-Jones, currently a non-executive trustee of ENO, has been appointed as Acting Director of the company while the board carries out a search for a new full time director.


Top management arrested at Opera Valencia

23 January 2015, Valencia, Spain

Helga Schmidt
Helga Schmidt(Photo © Palau de les Arts)

Following the sudden arrest of general director Helga Schmidt, the sweeping changes among the top brass of the Palau de les Arts in Valencia have been swift and dramatic. Spain’s third most important opera house, after Madrid and Barcelona, saw Schmidt taken into custody at the end of last week, after police launched an investigation into financial irregularities at the theatre.

The 73-year-old arts doyenne has now been released on bail, but has been relieved of her duties at the Palau de les Arts. Meanwhile, the American-born stage director Davide Livermore has today been appointed general director in Schmidt’s stead, promoted from his role as head of the Palau’s young artist studio, the Centro de Perfeccionamiento Plácido Domingo.

Schmidt is a hugely influential figure in the opera world, having held major arts posts in Vienna, Amsterdam and London, where she was the youngest ever artistic director of London’s Royal Opera House during the 1970s. Her wide-ranging influence in the opera world was a pivotal factor in establishing the Palau as a serious international player when the venue opened in 2005. The kudos that came from Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava’s futuristic designs for the new theatre was boosted by the arrival of luminaries such as Plácido Domingo, Zubin Mehta and the late Lorin Maazel.

In truth, Schmidt’s tenure in Valencia has rarely been free from controversy. Her detractors have painted her as an overindulgent spendthrift, demanding ruinously excessive budgets for the Palau at the expense of Valencia’s other arts organisations; her supporters, meanwhile, say that it is through her efforts that Valencia has been able to establish itself as one of Spain’s principal cultural destinations, and that she is the scapegoat of a chaotic local government which is trying to cover its own record of mismanagement.

Also arrested as part of the police investigation is Ernesto Moreno, who was the Palau’s manager from 2007 to 2011. Both he and Schmidt will now be the subject of an ongoing investigation into charges made by a former employee of the Palau regarding contractual irregularities and misappropriation of funds.


Canadian Opera Company announces major new commission

16 January 2015, Toronto, Canada

Above and below: composer Ana Sokolović and librettist Michel Marc Bouchard
Above and below: composer Ana Sokolović and librettist Michel Marc Bouchard

Canadian Opera Company has announced the commission of a major new opera by one of Canada’s most important composers, Ana Sokolović. Titled La Reine-Garçon, the libretto is by Quebec playwright Michel Marc Bouchard and based on his play of the same name.

Queen Christina of Sweden ruled the country in the 17th century before causing a scandal by abdicating her throne at the age of 27 and converting to Roman Catholicism. Her story has been the subject of several stage works, novels and films, including the 1933 classic Queen Christina, starring Greta Garbo.

La Reine-Garçon is currently in development and is scheduled to have its world premiere in the COC’s 2019/2020 season.

This will be the fourth opera commission for Serbian-born, Montreal-based Sokolović, and by far her biggest so far after writing three chamber operas for Toronto’s innovative Queen of Puddings Music Theatre, which closed in 2013. ‘As a woman and as an artist,’ she says, ‘I am particularly touched by this story about the Swedish Queen Christina. She was an inspiring woman ahead of her time.’

In 2012, Sokolović won huge critical acclaim for her opera Svadba-Wedding, which will feature in this summer’s Aix-en-Provence Festival in France.

La Reine-Garçon is Canadian Opera Company’s sixth commission for its main stage. On announcing this latest new opera, the company’s general director Alexander Neff said: ‘The subject of Christine of Sweden is one of Shakespearean proportion with universal relevance. I think it will make a fantastic opera, especially in the hands of Ana and Michel Marc.’

Subscribe to Opera Now as a print or digital edition now for more news, features and information. Single issues are also available in print and digital from just £2.49.


Russian State Opera brings Verdi's Rigoletto to the UK

15 January 2015

Next month sees the Russian State Opera on tour in the UK with Verdi’s Rigoletto, visiting 25 towns and cities up and down the country between Sunday 8 February and Saturday 7 March. The production by company artistic director Boris Lagoda will be accompanied by a 30-piece orchestra under Azat Maksutov.

‘Opera has been able to take advantage of the high-tech revolution in home entertainment, television and cinema, however, nothing can replace the pleasure of attending a live performance, which is why we are dedicated to presenting full new productions in regional theatres across the UK’, said Russian State Opera producer Alexej Ignatow.

The company is also planning a UK tour of Verdi’s La traviata in September-October 2015.

For further details and to book tickets visit www.opera-tickets.co.uk

TOUR DATES AND VENUES

Feb 8 Scarborough, The Spa
Feb 9 Lincoln, Theatre Royal
Feb 10 Yeovil, Octagon Theatre
Feb 11 Basildon, Towngate Theatre
Feb 12 Wakefield, Theatre Royal
Feb 13 Cheltenham, Everyman Theatre
Feb 15 York, Barbican
Feb 16 Newcastle,Tyne Theatre and Opera House 
Feb 17 Darlington, Civic Theatre
Feb 18 Dorking Halls
Feb 19 Hastings, White Rock Theatre
Feb 20 London, Cadogan Hall
Feb 21 Peterborough, The Cresset Theatre
Feb 22 Stevenage, Gordon Craig Theatre
Feb 24 Harrogate, Royal Hall
Feb 25 Chesterfield, Pomegranate Theatre
Feb 26 Stafford, Gatehouse Theatre
Feb 27 Carlisle, Sands Centre
Feb 28 Halifax, Victoria Theatre
Mar 1 Clacton, Princes Theatre
Mar 3 Swindon, Wyvern Theatre
Mar 4 Stockport, The Plaza
Mar 5 Blackburn, King George’s Hall
Mar 6 Shrewsbury, Theatre Severn
Mar 7 Tunbridge Wells, Assembly Hall



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