5 days in the life of DENNIS MARKS

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The Independent Online
MONDAY: Thank you, Radio 3, from all early risers. My wife, Sally, dozes to James Naughtie, but I find a cup of tea and some bracing Dvorak sets me up better. Particularly today, most of which will be spent in the piranha tank, announcing the results of ENO's feasibility study to the press. Some papers have already anticipated that we will opt for a newly built theatre. If we do, it had better be warmer than the Coliseum this morning, where the geriatric boiler has packed up again.

The turnout at the conference is substantial and lively. But it's always surprising how narrow are most journalists' concerns. Here are the results of a 300-page study, with 28 appendices. It offers a solution to ENO's future home, and London's only purpose-built performing arts centre for the millennium. Nevertheless, the press ask the same old questions - is the money for elitist art? Can London sustain two opera houses? Three-quarters of a million people went to opera in London and the South- east last year. It's not until the relative calm of Radio 3's In Tune later that the issues are discussed in depth.

By supper time I'm relieved to sink into the warm bath of Rebecca on ITV. Not a patch on Hitchcock, of course. And why do the little details irritate, like the unsuitable footwear Mrs DeWinter sports for her broody strolls in the grounds of Manderley?

TUESDAY: Francesca Zambello, the feisty director who carried off the Olivier award for our Khovanshchina, rings up to support the cause. She grew up on the West Side of New York and watched the Lincoln Centre transform a problem neighbourhood into a buzzing cosmopolis. Like me, she loves the Coliseum, but knows its ailments, creaks and groans.

Party during The Pearl Fishers to thank generous patrons of ENOfor their help with the study. They are delighted at the performance of four singers who have grown to international stature within the ENO company. These supporters have clubbed together to form syndicates to build the development of company singers. They have questions and concerns about the study, too, but they share its vision.

Then home after midnight to a kitchen sink overflowing with flowers, a New Year's gift from the composer Hans Werner Henze. How can someone who has a world premiere of a new opera in Munich on Saturday find the time for such a thoughtful gesture?

WEDNESDAY: First stage rehearsals of Italian Girl in Algiers. Poor Sally Burgess tore her Achilles tendon four weeks ago and the redoubtable Della Jones leapt into the breach. Della is one of the most experienced Rossini performers around and crackles with energy. Last-minute rescue bids have become the order of the day with this show. During the rehearsal period, our tenor Charles Workman flew out to La Scala to stand by to save Riccardo Muti's Alceste which had lost not just one, but two tenors to the winter bugs.

THURSDAY: More support and more misunderstandings. It's a relief to have the issues out in the open, so that people like Sir John Tooley and Humphrey Burton can bring some experienced clarity to the debate. Simple misunderstandings are always easier to report than complex analysis. How do you explain that the Coliseum sits at an angle to St Martin's Lane, cleverly concealed by the architect Frank Matcham in 1904, so that to create a proper backstage would mean demolishing the flats over the road and rehousing our neighbours?

FRIDAY: "The stage is set for battle," says the Guardian, over a supportive letter from our president, Lord Harewood. The Independent opens up the dialogue with a piece by Jonathan Glancey supporting the case for new buildings to serve the performing arts and contribute to the regeneration of a "writhing, snaking, energetic and creative capital".

And it's off to Munich tomorrow, for the premiere of Henze's Venus & Adonis. My predecessor Peter Jonas is still courageously producing new work at the Bavarian State Opera. He was an early contributor to this week's debate, castigating ENO's board and management for contemplating a move. His nostalgia for the Coli is an emotion easily recollected in the tranquillity of one of the best-equipped opera houses in Europe, with a subsidy four times that of ENO. And I'll bet their boiler is vorsprung durch Technik!

Dennis Marks is general director of English National Opera.