ENO appoints Cressida Pollock as opera leaders lend support
English National Opera has appointed Cressida Pollock as interim chief executive, a new role at the embattled ENO, which today has been staunchly defended by international opera leaders.
Pollock, who joins ENO from her previous position at global management consultancy McKinsey, will, from March 24, lead the company’s senior management team and be responsible for its operations.
Until then, Anthony Whitworth-Jones will continue as acting director. After that he will rejoin the company’s board as a trustee.
Pollock she said she was thrilled “to have the opportunity to play this role at one of the UK’s leading arts institutions”, during what she described as a “critical time for ENO”.
Acting chairman Harry Brunjes added: “Cressida will be working closely with myself, Glyn Barker – our chair of finance – John Berry, and the senior team over the coming months as ENO adapts to an operating model which will rely less on public subsidy, while still maintaining the highest level of artistic excellence.”
In recent months the organisation has faced a series of difficulties described as a “Chernobyl meltdown” by artist-in-residence Peter Sellars, which has seen the company dropped from Arts Council England’s national funding portfolio, as well as the resignation of two senior executives.
A spokesman for the company told The Stage that Pollock’s main priority will be “to move ahead with implementing a new business model for the company, and ensuring the ENO is re-admitted to the arts council’s national portfolio in November”.
Pollock’s appointment comes as opera heads from around the world spoke out in defence of ENO and Berry’s leadership.
An open letter signed by 33 directors and managers – including Metropolitan Opera general manager Peter Gelb and Canadian Opera Company general director Alexander Neef – says the leaders are alarmed by what it considers to be unfair criticism of the company and its management.
The letter reads: “At a time when it has helped to further embellish London’s reputation as a leading centre of cultural creativity, it doesn’t seem fair for the ENO to now be under fire.
“It is not the fault of the ENO that it is suffering from the same financial woes that many international opera companies are facing these days. Rather than being criticised, Berry and his company should be applauded for their indefatigable efforts to keep our art form fresh. We stand together in support of him and his notable achievements.”
Following the appointment of Pollock, the company is to begin seeking both a permanent chief executive and chairman.