Announced today, the ENO 2016-2017 season. First, the easy bits : three new productions, one a British premiere. Then, perhaps more intriguing, speculation on the future. Far from consolidating expenses, logical enough in the circumstances, the ENO plans to stage one-third of its productions outside the Coliseum by 2018/2019. The economics behind this aren't clear cut by any means, so the portents are worrying. What are the real implications for the future ?
The three new productions Mozart Don Giovanni conducted by Mark Wigglesworth, in a Richard Jones production with Christopher Purves, Clive Bayley, Caitlin Lynch, Christine Rice, Mary Bevan and Allan Clayton. Good solid people there: we're guaranteed a good experience if nothing specially tempting.
Much more exciting - Brenda Rae's London debut as Lulu in Alban Berg's opera, scheduled for November 2016. She's a huge catch - even ROH hasn't nabbed her yet. She's appeared in major roles in Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Santa Fe, and was a sensational Armida at Glyndebourne in Handel Rinaldo, where she and Luca Pisaroni stole the sho. (Read my review of the premiere HERE. London audiences will also remember her (again singing with Pisaroni) in Handel Radamisto conducted by Harry Bicket at the Barbican in 2013. Read my review HERE. Rae isn't solely a baroque singer: she's done a lot of Strauss She should make a very good Lulu - probably more feisty and sexy than some, but that's perfectly valid in the role. This will be the William Kentridge production also seen in Amsterdam and at the Met.
The ENO will continue to honour its role in creating English-language work with Ryan Wigglesworth's first opera, The Winter's Tale, based of course on Shakespeare, which he'll also conduct. Excellent cast - Iain Paterson, Leigh Melrose, Susan Bickley and Sophie Bevan This will also be the directing debut of Rory Kinnear, famous for acting Shakepeare in the theatre.
Revivals include Rigoletto, Tosca, The Pearl Fishers The Pirates of Penzance and Partenope.
But back to the plans for working outside the Coliseum. Transferring to the Hackney Empire for experimental work like Charlie Parker's Yardbird might make sense, as it's not very mainstream, and the place is bigger than Ambika 3, whose name confounds most people. But why do Elgar Dream of Gerontius at the South Bank? Admittedly, it won't be staged, and it will, hopefully, provide good work for the ENO Chorus and orchestra. Watch out for more news. And the ENO's The Mikado will play ten dates in Blackpool. That would tick the right political boxes, like "regional" and "popular" but it isn't necessarily the prime purpose of a company committed to opera as art form.