Following a year of severe financial problems and with an inability to fill London’s largest theatre, it is perhaps unsurprising that English National Opera’s 2015/16 season is a relatively safe bet by operatic repertoire standards. With major cuts from Arts Council England and threats made to its national portfolio status, ENO has sought to revolutionise the way it produces opera in a financially sustainable, though still artistically progressive, manner. With 60,000 seats available for £20 and under, the Coliseum is looking to attract a younger and more casual spectator, as always. Opera can no longer, under any circumstance, be called elite. Although with five revivals out of the 12 productions being mounted, all at the Coli, ENO’s approach to music making has certainly changed from the recent years of bold artistic, though expensive, leaps into the unknown.
Personally I am very sorry not to see any Britten on the programme, but there are many fan favourites being offered this season including The Barber of Seville, La Boheme, The Mikado, The Magic Flute and Madam Butterfly. With these ENO presumably seeks to offset the losses of the more artistic and progressive theatre works including a new production of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Philip Glass’s opera Akhnaten, produced in collaboration with director Phelim McDermott’s fantastic theatre company Improbable. A new production of Tristan and Isolde will also excite audiences, especially with leading Australian tenor Stuart Skelton at the helm.
Apart from these rare treats there is little for the opera enthusiast to get their teeth into. In recent years ENO has been the centre of the operatic avant-garde and I for one have been so pleased to go to the opera and be challenged. English National Opera should be the home of progressive music theatre in this country and I hope that for the future funding and the artistic powers that be allows the company to again explore exciting new prospects.
For tickets and more information about ENO’s 2015/16 season, see the ENO website.