thu 25/07/2024

An open letter from Dame Sarah Connolly and colleagues to Arts Council England | reviews, news & interviews

An open letter from Dame Sarah Connolly and colleagues to Arts Council England

An open letter from Dame Sarah Connolly and colleagues to Arts Council England

The mezzo is joined by an operatic who's who in a plea to save English National Opera

Sarah Connolly with ENO Chorus members before singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" last weekOlive Simpson

The decision of Arts Council England to withdraw funding from the English National Opera and force it to move out of London is not only another hammer blow to the opera industry but it has huge ramifications for the extensive number of British freelance artists the company employs.

ACE made this decision with no consultation with the ENO or the wider industry, and now huge numbers of freelancers are vulnerable and potentially without employment.

We call on Sir Nicholas Serota and ACE to rethink this terrible decision, and to reflect on the choice they have made to target opera as an industry in particular- nearly a third of national opera funding has disappeared overnight.

As is normal with the long planning cycles of opera, the ENO has already engaged all of its freelance artists for the 22-23 and 23-24 seasons. There are a huge number of British and UK based singers, conductors and creative teams already contracted for a season that must be delivered. Should British talent not be seen on British stages and in this case, London stages? 80% of the ENO’s freelance singers are British and/or UK trained and based. The international talent that the Royal Opera House does and should showcase is wonderful - but our own homegrown talent must be seen on a London stage too. This has been the ENO’s raison d’être for nearly 100 years. A metropolis as popular as London should have two opera houses.

ENO trailer (with passionate audience reactions) to David McVicar's production of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier in 2012 with Sarah Connolly as Octavian

The ENO provides hundreds of freelance jobs, investing more than £5 million on average every year. Their care and concern for freelancers during the pandemic meant that many avoided financial crisis at  the time when work disappeared. ACE’s decision to reduce the ENO’s funding to £5.5 million a year will destroy the company and the financial health of these freelancers. This money will not be spent on opera for audiences - it will go on redundancy payments and previously agreed contracts the ENO will need to honour due to this poor strategic decision. This is a terrible use of taxpayer’s money.

We demand that ACE reinstate the English National Opera’s funding immediately to avoid the catastrophic effect the current proposal has on our industry.


Dame Sarah Connolly DBE on behalf of: 

Dame Felicity Palmer DBE, opera singer; Dame Felicity Lott CBE, opera singer; Sir Simon Rattle OM CBE, conductor; Sir Willard Wentworth White OM CBE, opera singer; Sir Thomas Allen CBE, opera singer and director; Sir John Tomlinson, opera singer; Susan Bullock CBE, opera singer; Sarah Walker CBE, opera singer; Daniel Harding CBE, conductor; Fiona Shaw CBE, actor and opera director; Ian Bostridge CBE, opera singer; Roderick Williams OBE, opera singer; Robin Ticciati OBE, conductor; Harry Bicket OBE, conductor; Alice Coote OBE, opera singer; Malcolm Martineau OBE, pianist; Iestyn Davies MBE, opera singer; Allan Clayton MBE, opera snger and former ENO Harewood Artist; Mary Bevan MBE, opera Singer and former ENO Harewood Artist; Sophie Bevan MBE, opera singer and former ENO Harewood Artist; Elizabeth Llewellyn MBE, opera singer and former ENO Harewood Artist; Nadine Benjamin MBE, opera singer and former ENO Harewood Artist

Former ENO Music Directors

Sir Mark Elder CH CBE (Music Director 1979-1993); Sian Edwards (Music Director 1993-1995); Paul Daniel CBE (Music Director 1997-2005); Edward Gardner OBE (Music Director 2007-2015); Mark Wigglesworth (Music Director 2015-2016)

Former ENO Harewood Artists (previously known as Young Singers Programme)

Alex Otterburn; William Thomas; Eleanor Dennis; Soraya Mafi; Matthew Durkan; Nicky Spence; Nardus Williams; Rhian Lois; Anthony Gregory; Claire Barnett-Jones; Leigh Melrose; Stephanie Marshall; Madeleine Shaw; Kathryn Rudge; Victoria Simmonds;  Sarah Tynan; Elizabeth Watts; Katherine Broderick

Current Harewood Artists

Alexandra Oomens; Isabelle Peters; Amy Holyland; Idunnu Münch; John Findon; Innocent Masuku; Zwakele Tshabalala; Benson Wilson; Ossian Huskinson

Also supported by other opera singers and (where stated) conductors and directors

Danielle de Niese; Anthony Roth Costanzo; Lesley Garrett; Christopher Purves; Susan Bickley; Gerald Finley; David Butt Philip; Brindley Sherratt; Karen Cargill; Lise Davidsen; Richard Farnes, conductor;  Erin Morley; David Junghoon Kim; Janis Kelly; Anna Patalong (also CEO of British Youth Opera); Richard Suart; John Graham-Hall; Paula Murrihy; Joshua Hopkins; Stephen Barlow, conductor; Roland Wood; Tim Mead; Ben Glassberg, conductor; Natalya Romaniw; Robert Murray; Thomas Atkins; Jennifer Davis; David Soar;; Louise Alder; Neal Davies; Robert Lloyd; Michael Colvin; Annabel Arden, director; Timothy Sheader, director; Melly Still, director; Greer Grimsley; Sally Matthews; Sarah-Jane Brandon; Rosie Aldridge; Carole Wilson; Christopher Ainslie; Jacques Imbrailo; Caspar Singh; Dean Power; Anna Stéphany; Heidi Stober; James Gilchrist; Sydney Mancasola; Russell Thomas; Barry Banks; Clive Bayley; Brenda Rae; Johanna Wallroth; Lauren Fagan; Miina-Liisa Värelä; Alyona Abramova; Amitai Pati; James Ley; Daniel Okulitch; Noel Bouley; Alexandra Lowe; Ambur Braid; Aude Extrémo; Allison Cook; Stephen Milling; Charlotte Hellekant; Julie Roset; Andrew Foster-Williams; Emma Bell; Derek Welton; Francisco Negrin, director; Christopher Ventris; Robert Hayward; Darren Jeffery; Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts; Andrew Shore; Ed Lyon; Henry Waddington; Edgaras Montvidas; Claudia Huckle; Stuart Jackson; Marcus Farnsworth; Ashley Riches; Lucy Crowe; Christopher Maltman; Avery Amereau; Alan Oke; Adrian Noble, director; Gergely Madaras, conductor; Thomas Søndergård, conductor; Jennifer Johnston; Catherine Wyn-Rogers; Jennifer France


This is a brilliant letter which makes the case so eloquently. The move will mean, effectively, starting a new company from scratch, which in current circumstances is wildly unrealistic. And the years of experience, struggle and triumph at ENO will be jettisoned.

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