I have been going on and off to the English National Opera for many years. Yesterday I saw the Mastersingers of Nuremberg in what was the finest production I have ever seen of that opera (including at Wagner’s Bayreuth) and I tweeted that it was the best opera on show in Europe. Earlier this year I saw Traviata and again it was one of the clearest more forceful interpretations of Verdi’s opera I have ever seen.
Yet the ENO is in special measures, placed there by the Arts Council. I know nothing of arts politics in Britain and don’t want to start learning. But I wrote the letter below to the ENO director John Berry because when one is privileged to enjoy great art thanks should be given.
ENO London Coliseum
St Martin’s Lane
London WC2N 4ES
Dear Mr Berry
I just wanted to write to express my enjoyment from your Traviata and Mastersingers – the latter I tweeted to 11k followers as being probably the best opera in Europe at the moment.
I thought playing Traviata straight through was brilliant and compared to show-offy, Nazi themed Mastersingers I have seen (including at Bayreuth) I thought the ENO was one of the clearest, cleanest and best-organised which brought out the great humour and humanity not seen in other Wagner.
By the way, please pass on congrats to the director for the business at the end. I wondered how you were going to do the Deutsches Kunst stuff and for all the singers to hold up a German artist (including Jewish ones!) was so simple, so obvious and yet not done before. Sachs holding up Brecht was genius!
I know nothing of your problems and as a former minister the interface between government and what they pay for outside departmental control is fraught. But I cannot understand why given two of the best opera productions I have seen in recent years here and abroad you are in special measures or whatever the Arts Council announced. Mind you I cannot work out why Oxfordshire Council is not in special measures but Rotherham is. Remind me who is a leading Oxfordshire MP sitting in No 10?
I saw Simon Jenkins there and we said hello. I will copy this letter as he knows more about these things than most and writes so brilliantly on them. But your Mastersingers was a masterpiece as the utterly packed audience yesterday made clear. I will copy this to the Arts Council chief but to what end?