Tuesday, 22 March 2016
ENO: the fight's not over
Before I go on, please be reassured that none of what follows is meant to overshadow the enormity of the Brussels news which has cast a pall over the day, the week, the month. But struggles great and small are going on everywhere, so I hope it's not too insensitive to ask for your indulgence with this one.
'I can not be otherwise,' Hofmannsthal's Arabella declares to Strauss's music. So it is with Mark Wigglesworth, one of the most honourable people I've met. How could he not hand in his resignation, as he officially did via Albion Media and the ENO Press Office this afternoon, now that our national opera company has been declared fit for purpose for only half the year, with its chorus looking for work elsewhere from March to June?
Despite what Cressida Pollock says in the weasel words (to put it mildly) of a vague, badly phrased manifesto for some reason published uncritically in today's Independent - what was she thinking of, comparing her decision to Sophie's Choice? - no real compromise was made on her part or the Board's. Mark has offered no further comment for the time being - more will come over the next few days - and neither shall I on that subject, other than to note that this may simply be the next stage in a refusal to let bureaucrats gut a thriving company and that I only hope statements of fact will fight all the obfuscation on the other side.
The top picture should say it all from the artistic side. I wanted to go back and see The Magic Flute, the production by Simon McBurney which hadn't ignited first time round but did so at a sublime level with Wigglesworth conducting, Lucy Crowe as Pamina and Allan Clayton as Tamino. I wrote about the first night experience in an earlier post, so let's just say the final afternoon performance had me shedding rather more tears in key spots (the Act One Quintet, several places in the Act One finale, what we'll always know as 'Ach, ich fühl's' and 'Tamino mein'). The whole of the second act finale transported me to that happy deeper place I sometimes touch on in the most successful meditations.
I'm certainly not prone to snapping curtain calls. But as, in thanks for my participation on the Mackerras Fellowship jury, they'd given me tickets dead centre in the Dress Circle and I was ideally placed to catch perhaps the last moment of unalloyed musical idealism at ENO, I did the honours both at the final bow and just after.
For the last words - at least for now - I refer you back to Mark's article for The Guardian on 11 February. He stated his position in no uncertain terms here: 'ENO’s identity as a team defines its past and will be its greatest asset in protecting its future Cutting the core of the company - musicians and technicians alike - would damage it irreparably.' And he ended thus:
English National Opera’s current production is as interesting to the aficionado as it is welcoming to the opera novice. No one would feel they needed to belong to an opera club to enjoy it. It is a showcase for the groundbreaking possibilities of a people’s opera, for the extraordinary qualities of those in our company, and for the magnificent Coliseum itself. It is a celebration of what teamwork can bring, and of the magical power of music to bring us together, remind us that we are human, and enrich our lives for the better.
Now it really is a battle between the Enlightened and the - not. I hope it isn't all over.
UPDATE: The Guardian quotes from a longer resignation letter sent to company members. It clarifies with MW's usual eloquence what he has been maintaining for months.