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New ENO music director admits company has ‘lost its way’

English National Opera’s new music director Mark Wigglesworth English National Opera’s music director Mark Wigglesworth
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English National Opera’s new music director Mark Wigglesworth has claimed the company has “lost its way a little bit”.

Wigglesworth, who joined ENO earlier this month, also admitted recent shows at the company’s home, the London Coliseum, had attracted fewer people than they should have.

“If you get the work right and you get your promoting of it right, then filling this building shouldn’t be a problem, but I completely agree that we have lost our way a little bit — in terms of people coming, frankly,” he told The Times.

Indicating that ENO needed to make its work more widely accessible, he continued: “You can’t deny that the work [at ENO] is good and you can’t deny that the box office has become more challenging. And that’s not a price worth paying.”

Wigglesworth said the company needed to go back to its roots, following the mantra of its founder Lilian Baylis and broadening its reach.

He explained: “Her philosophy was that opera should be of the highest quality and accessible to the most number of people…If you believe that the best work is not actually for 2,400 people a night, then you’re in the wrong place.”

The past year has seen a managerial exodus at the ENO, with the departure of chairman Martyn Rose and executive director Henriette Gotz within less than a week of each other, and the later departure of artistic director John Berry.

Last week the company announced it was reviewing its artistic management structure, and that Cressida Pollock had become full-time chief executive, with Harry Brunjes as chairman. Since Berry’s departure, ENO has been run without an artistic director.

Asked if he was “stepping into chaos”, Wigglesworth responded: “It’s our job to make the outside world realise what it looks like from the inside — because we don’t think it is chaos at all. I mean, had I joined last year when all this was blowing up, that would have actually been very challenging. My sense is that we are all going to inhale a breath of fresh air in order to move forward.”

Earlier this week it was announced that Glenn Close will star in a semi-staged production of Sunset Boulevard at the Coliseum, the second musical in a partnership between the ENO and the GradeLinnit Company following Sweeney Todd earlier this year.

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