Condcutor Martyn Brabbins has resigned as music director of English National Opera, citing recent and severe cuts to the ENO’s orchestra and chorus.
Brabbins, who took on the role of ENO’s music director in 2016, said: ‘As music director of English National Opera for the past seven years, and head of its orchestra, chorus and music staff, I cannot in all conscience continue to support the board and management’s strategy for the future of the company.
‘While my feelings on this have been developing for some time, it reached its nadir this week, with the internal announcement of severe cuts to its orchestra and chorus from 2024/25 season. In protest, this afternoon I tendered my resignation with immediate effect.
‘Although making cuts has been necessitated by Arts Council England’s interference in the company’s future, the proposed changes would drive a coach and horses through the artistic integrity of the whole of ENO as a performing company, while also singularly failing to protect our musicians’ livelihoods.
‘This is a plan of managed decline, rather than an attempt to rebuild the company and maintain the world-class artistic output, for which ENO is rightly famed. I urge ACE to reassess this situation and recognise the devastating implications their funding decisions will have on the lives of individual musicians, as well the reputation of the UK on the international stage.
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‘My wholehearted thanks and support go out to the entire ENO team, especially those in the departments I oversaw. I am incredibly proud of everything we accomplished, and I sincerely hope that the company will find a path that puts exceptional artistry front and centre of its future.’
The ENO issued the following response: ‘The ENO is surprised that Martyn Brabbins has decided to end his tenure as music director so abruptly.
‘As a member of the ENO’s senior leadership, Martyn has been party to all key discussions at all stages and the extremely difficult decisions that have to be made by the Board and Management in constrained financial circumstances.
‘After nine months of negotiation with Arts Council England, the ENO has reached a position where we are confident we can maintain a substantial level of operatic work – as opposed to the original reality of total redundancy across the entire company (following Art Council England’s previous decision to remove the ENO as a National Portfolio Organisation in November 2022).
As recorded in Board minutes, an all-staff meeting and in correspondence with Management and the Board, Martyn agreed that the position reached with Arts Council England in July 2023 provides a workable outcome. As the ENO’s musical leader, we are disappointed that Martyn has chosen to resign rather than support the company by engaging with the process of creating a sustainable future for the ENO.’
Under Brabbins’s tenure, the ENO has mounted a string of well-received productions of works including Britten‘s Peter Grimes, Wagner‘s Das Rheingold, Janáček‘s The Cunning Little Vixen, Mozart‘s The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute, and many more.