English National Opera

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English opera company with policy of usually performing operas in English. It assumed this name in 1974, six years after having moved into the London Coliseum in St Martin's Lane from its previous headquarters at Sadler's Wells, a th. in N. London (Rosebery Avenue). Sadler's Wells was so named because in 1683 a Mr Sadler discovered a well in his garden with supposedly medicinal properties and enlarged his buildings and grounds to accommodate customers, for whom he also provided entertainment. In 1765 a th. was built on the site. Various entertainments were given there before it fell into disuse. In 1925 a public appeal raised £70,000 in 5 years to restore the th. as a home for opera and drama like the Old Vic. It opened, with a capacity of 1,650, in Jan. 1931 under management of Lilian Baylis. Opera and ballet alternated with Shakespeare prods., between SW and Old Vic, but from 1934–5 the opera was based at SW. In next 5 years, several operas had their f.ps. and f.ps. in England (incl. Rimsky‐Korsakov's Snow Maiden and the orig. Boris Godunov), and many famous Eng. singers and conds. worked there. During war, co. concentrated on touring but was built up again under directorship of Joan Cross. For return to its London home in June 1945 the co. produced a new opera by Benjamin Britten, Peter Grimes. In 1947, Norman Tucker became co‐dir. (dir. 1954–66), and post‐war mus. dirs. incl. James Robertson 1946–54, Alexander Gibson 1957–9, Colin Davis 1959–65, Charles Mackerras 1970–8, Charles Groves 1978–9, Mark Elder 1979–93, Sian Edwards 1993–5, Paul Daniel 1997–2005, and Edward Gardner from 2006. Since 1950 new operas by Berkeley, Gardner, Richard Rodney Bennett, Malcolm Williamson, Gordon Crosse, David Blake, Stephen Oliver, John Buller, Jonathan Harvey, and Judith Weir, have been prod. Janáček perfs. by SW and ENO est. the composer in the Brit. public's favour, and there were famous prods. at SW of Così fan tutte, Rusalka, Simon Boccanegra (its f. Brit. p., 1948), and many other operas. Stephen Arlen was dir. 1966–72, succeeded by the Earl of Harewood, whose tenure ended in 1985 when he was succeeded by Peter Jonas. On Jonas's departure to Munich in 1993, Dennis Marks became gen. dir. Arlen pioneered the co.'s move from the Rosebery Avenue th. to the London Coliseum in 1968. A feature of Arlen's management was the engagement of Reginald Goodall to conduct Wag‐ner's Mastersingers and later the complete Ring in a new Eng. trans. by Andrew Porter, and with Rita Hunter as Brünnhilde. SW/ENO gave the f. Brit. p. of The Devils of Loudun (1973) and f. Brit. stage p. of The Bassarids (1974). Under the triumvirate of Jonas, Elder, and the prod. David Pountney, after 1985 the ENO won a reputation for innovative, radical, and often controversial prods. Among f. Brit. ps. in this period were Le Grand Macabre (1982), Akhnaten (1985), and Reimann's Lear (1989), and the première was given of The Mask of Orpheus (1986). Marks was succeeded in 1998 by Nicholas Payne, who resigned in 2002. His successor, Séan Doran, left in 2006 and was followed by John Berry and Loretta Tomasi. A separate opera co., ENO North, based in Leeds, was founded Nov. 1978, with David Lloyd‐Jones as mus. dir. Its name was changed to Opera North in 1981. For SW Ballet, see Royal Ballet.


Subjects: Music.

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