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‘ENO’s staging of commercial shows is a betrayal’ – David Mellor

ENO's London Coliseum base. Photo: Shutterstock

David Mellor, the former cabinet minister who is credited with securing the London Coliseum for English National Opera, has criticised the company for leasing the venue commercially.

Mellor described plans to boost the number of commercial shows in the Coliseum as a “total betrayal” of the values that led to the government agreeing to fund the purchase of the freehold.

ENO has resided at the Coliseum for half a century, but in 1992 the government secured funding to purchase the Coliseum for £13 million on behalf of the company.

In an interview with the Times [1], Mellor said he “actually went on [his] knees” in front of then prime minister John Major to convince him to buy the theatre, “in order that people who did not have Covent Garden money could enjoy a top-class opera experience”.

In recent years, the financially troubled ENO has staged fewer in-house performances at the Coliseum and increased the amount of time it leases out the venue commercially.

Mellor said of the venture: “I don’t think [ENO chair Harry] Brunjes and his gang should be able to use a national asset that was given to them for a totally different purpose like that.”

ENO currently receives £12.38 million a year [2] in Arts Council England subsidy.

In a statement sent to the Times, the company said: “Every single way that we use the Coliseum is about making brilliant opera for the widest audience… whether that is selling out the Coliseum, which we did in recent months, or using it to generate funds that we can use to perform elsewhere.”