Sunday, 3 April 2016

ENO at the Oliviers: winners not present

Congratulations to the English National Opera Chorus and Orchestra for winning the Outstanding Achievement in Opera at the Olivier Awards. I'm sure stupendous Tamara Wilson, Leonora in the company's Force of Destiny, and the evergreen Felicity Palmer, the Countess in last season's Queen of Spades, also nominated, will have been cheering them on.

Yet it's baffling that no-one from either chorus or orchestra was present to claim the award, not having been invited. At the very least the spirited co-leader, Janice Graham, should have been there. Isn't this a very symbol of the gulf between the CEO and Board on the one hand and the 'creatives' who have always delivered through thick and thin on the other?

I understand Martin Fitzpatrick of the Music Staff made a perfectly fine speech about treasuring what they have, presumably ironic when you bear in mind that the majority of the administration who attended have been doing their best to dismantle what makes this company great. It's still not too late to make the right kind of changes. Mark Wigglesworth remains to show the ENO in all its glory in the Jenůfa this season and two more productions in the next. As I predicted last month, the artists will all put up a fight to keep him.

Proud of my colleagues on The Arts Desk, chiefly theatre critic Marianka Swain, for tweeting so trenchantly throughout the event and declaring TAD's allegiance to the ENO cause. And there really is only one (cause): to survive and change, but not at the cost of becoming a part-time company.

STOP PRESS (4/4): Our Tamara - as I think I can say after two hours in her grounded, funny company when she visited the opera class at the Frontline Club - has just won the prestigious Richard Tucker Prize for 2016, following in rather distinguished footsteps (Renée Fleming, Lawrence Brownlee, Stephanie Blythe, David Daniels, Angela Meade, Joyce DiDonato, Michael Fabiano and Jamie Barton). ENO casting has been criticised for over-use of American singers, and it does need to get back to promoting a UK ensemble, but I've NEVER heard Verdi singing like hers at the Coli (and Marjorie Owens's Norma was a good call, too). She'll be back here in July, but doing what I can't as yet say*. Photo above by Aaron Gang.

*Update (1/5) - I can now: the soprano part in Tippett's A Child of Our Time and testing out a bit of Brünnhilde in the final scene of Die Walküre Act 3 with James Cresswell as Wotan: my doing, says Mark Wigglesworth, who's conducting the Prom in question.

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