Leading Article: Not quite everyone needs opera

Share
Related Topics
LAUNCHING English National Opera's new season yesterday, Dennis Marks, its general director designate, said the company was entering 'a period of renewal'. It was a nicely chosen phrase. The triumvirate that enabled the ENO to spearhead the opera boom of the Eighties is being replaced by a new team. Not all the productions of classics that delighted and shocked (not necessarily at the same time) when first shown in the Eighties have worn well. Reaction against them, coupled with the recession, has aggravated the company's financial difficulties, helping to create a burdensome deficit.

For the ENO to regain the loyalty of its fans, the new team must embark on a phased renewal of much of its core repertoire. To judge by yesterday's announcements, the emphasis initially will be on popular works. From the financial viewpoint, that makes sense.

The challenge to the company will be to invest these classics with fresh meaning in productions that will not date too quickly. Lately there has been a reaction against what is sometimes called 'concept' opera, in which the action is transposed into an unexpected, often identifiably contemporary era, or appears to take place in a largely abstract setting. At some ENO productions, such as David Pountney's of Verdi's Macbeth, one has had to close one's eyes to enjoy the performance. The new team must find ways of surprising audiences without alienating them.

Happily, the ENO's recent difficulties have been balanced by the emergence of the Royal Opera House from a dark period in which little seemed to go right. That success was symbolised by its monopoly of opera nominations for the recent Olivier Awards. At a lower price level, its success and acclaim have been matched by Welsh National Opera and Opera North. The first two in particular have built up large followings on their tours of provincial cities, with the Welsh company attracting Continental producers and conductors of the calibre of Peter Stein and Pierre Boulez.

Opera may be inspiring less hype than it did in the boom years, which featured Pavarotti in the Park, Nessun Dorma topping the charts, the wildly popular three tenors concert in Rome, Ada, Carmen and Tosca at Earl's Court, and a vogue for arias in television commercials. In the late, unlamented recession, the ENO's posters proclaiming that 'Everyone Needs Opera' seemed to mock beggars in London's Underground system while being disproved by the company's deficit. Broadly speaking, opera remains under-funded. But there can be little doubt that once the recovery is under way, it will continue its remarkable onward march in the nation's affections.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Independent Voices
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project