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ENO ‘would not survive’ without musicals, claims Michael Linnit

Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard at the London Coliseum in 2016. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith
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Producer Michael Linnit has claimed English National Opera "would not survive" if it did not programme commercial musicals in-between its opera productions.

Linnit, who stages musicals at ENO's London home with fellow producer Michael Grade, said ENO was right to add musical theatre to its seasons, despite criticisms levelled at the company for moving away from opera.

Grade and Linnit are poised to open their third semi-staged musical at the Coliseum – Carousel, starring Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins. They have previously produced Sweeney Todd and Sunset Boulevard.

"[ENO] rents its theatre to musical producers for a very, very large sum of money. It only produces its opera [at the Coliseum] six months of the year, so we facilitate those six months by taking in musicals, producing a lot of money for it. I think it works very well. It [ENO] would not survive without the additional rental weeks," Linnit told The Stage.

He added: "I think it's right ENO should branch out and should take it to areas that don't see that kind of theatre."

Linnit was speaking at the opening night of 42nd Street, which he and Grade also produce.

Grade and Linnit struck a deal with ENO in 2014. This means that, while the shows take place at ENO, they are produced entirely by Grade and Linnit and their success bears "no risk" to the organisation, which has suffered financially in recent years.

Jim Steinman's Bat Out of Hell musical will also be performed at ENO later this year by outside producers.

Responding, a spokeswoman for ENO said: “It is true that the revenue generated either from hiring out the theatre to companies such as English National Ballet or from our musical theatre partnership with GradeLinnit goes straight back into ENO’s onstage work. By renting out the London Coliseum for more weeks of the year while we are performing elsewhere, we will generate significantly more income that we can then invest back into our opera, talent development and the work of ENO Baylis.”

She added that the musical theatre partnership had “significant benefits” that extend beyond additional revenue, including audience development.

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