ENO blames Arts Council cuts after production of Orfeo is cancelled

Funding is set to fall by nearly £5m next year

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The English National Opera has been forced to cancel a forthcoming production “for the first time in recent memory” as a direct result of severe cuts to its funding earlier this year.

Orfeo, a co-production with the Bristol Old Vic, was due to be staged at the West Country theatre next April, but the ENO announced today that it had been forced to pull out.

Bristol’s artistic director Tom Morris called it a symptom of the arts cuts in general, “which could cause structure damage to the creative industries".

"The ENO is the canary in the mine," he said.

It was to be the first time that the London company had taken a UK production outside of capital for 15 years and cancelling was “the last resort”, according to insiders.

John Berry, artistic director of the ENO, expressed his regret but added that “a stable financial position is crucial to the company’s future”.

The opera company was one of the organisations to face the severest cuts when Arts Council England announced its three-year funding plans in July.

Its annual Arts Council funding is set to fall from £17.2m to £12.4m next financial year – a larger-than-expected cut. The proposed production of Monteverdi’s opera was to fall in that financial year.

A spokeswoman for the ENO said there was a “direct correlation” between the cuts and the withdrawal from the project. She added no one at the organisation “can remember the last time we’ve been forced to cancel a production after it has been announced”.

Orfeo is the only announced production to suffer, and it was chosen because taking members of the orchestra and chorus out of London “is expensive”, the spokeswoman said. “We want to but we can’t. We’ve looked at every way to save money.”

It was to be the first major collaboration between the two theatre companies, with the production conceived and directed by Mr Morris.

He said: “It is frustrating for us but the bigger picture is this the continued year-on-year cuts are undeniably starting to be felt. This is the consequence.

“It’s obviously not just the regions that are feeling it, but the question mark is where the conversation goes next.”

The director hailed the Government’s recent initiative to introduce tax breaks for touring productions but said: “That can’t be the whole answer. If we carry on cutting subsidies we will dismantle the theatre industry.”