English National Opera reflects on ‘challenging’ year as new season is revealed

The company will stage The Handmaid’s Tale, 7 Deaths Of Maria Callas and La Traviata during its 2023/24 season.

Charlotte McLaughlin
Wednesday 17 May 2023 14:04 BST
Members of the English National Opera, conducted by Laurence Cummings, take part in rehearsals for Handel’s Messiah at the London Coliseum (Ian West/PA)
Members of the English National Opera, conducted by Laurence Cummings, take part in rehearsals for Handel’s Messiah at the London Coliseum (Ian West/PA) (PA Archive)

English National Opera has revealed a 2023/24 season with nine productions after a “challenging” year.

The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the Margaret Atwood book of the same name, The Magic Flute and Bela Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle are among the work being put on by the opera company.

The Arts Council England (ACE) had announced plans in November to remove ENO as a national portfolio organisation.

The public body proposed that ENO receive a £17 million grant over three years but only if it relocates outside of London, with a move to Manchester suggested.

In April, it was announced that the opera company would receive funding of up to £24 million from ACE to support a relocation.

Annilese Miskimmon, artistic director of the ENO, said: “This past season has been challenging following the Arts Council’s removal of the ENO’s NPO status but also incredibly rewarding with sell-out, critically acclaimed productions across a huge breadth of repertoire.

“We are thrilled that 64% of our audience has been new to the ENO – the highest recorded in the last six years – including record numbers of under-35 and under-21 attendees.”

ACE previously said the funding had been granted to “sustain a programme of work at the ENO’s home, the London Coliseum” and at the same time “help the ENO start planning for a new base outside London by 2026”.

The latest ENO season also sees the UK premiere of 7 Deaths Of Maria Callas from director and performance artist Marina Abramovic after shows in Germany, France and Italy.

It explores the life, work and death of American-Greek soprano Callas who died in 1977.

It will also re-stage Duke Bluebeard’s Castle – which tells the dark story of the latest wife of a noble – after 15 years, along with reviving Gilbert and Sullivan satirical fantasy Iolanthe, Olivier Award-winning romantic tragedy La Traviata and David Alden’s psychological drama Peter Grimes.

Futuristic dystopian story The Handmaid’s Tale – which made its opera debut with Ms Miskimmon’s production last year and has previously seen a series and a film adaption – is also returning as mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey takes on the role of Offred yet again.

Also making a come back are Gioachino Rossini’s comedy The Barber Of Seville, first staged in 1987, Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Olivier Award-winning production of Leos Janacek’s family drama Jenufa – which is being conducted by the music director of the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, Keri-Lynn Wilson.

Ms Miskimmon said: “We have curated this season to delight our ENO regulars and newcomers alike with the return of old and new favourites that highlight the drama, beauty and emotion of this fascinating art form.

“It is a huge privilege to work with such exciting talent on stage, in the pit, and behind the scenes.”

Peter Grimes opens the latest season from September 21 to October 11 2023 and Duke Bluebeard’s Castle closes it from March 21 to 23 2024.

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