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<<  -- 2 --  Roderic Dunnett    PAYNE RESIGNS


In a letter to The Times on 18 July 2002 the erstwhile 'Powerhouse' triumvirate which took ENO to new heights in the 80s and 90s -- former general manager Peter Jonas (now Intendant of the Bavarian State Opera), Mark Elder (Music Director of the Hallé Orchestra and presently conducting Euryanthe at Glyndebourne) and David Pountney (former Director of Productions at ENO, whose guiding hand has arguably been missed there since the trio left for pastures new) -- come out firmly on Payne's behalf and express severe doubts about the danger of a smallish deficit being exaggerated so that opera in the UK becomes driven by spurious, non-artistic considerations :

'The board of ENO,' (they write) 'has ousted Nicholas Payne in a move as
dangerous for the future of opera as it is shabby in its execution. Payne is the most experienced professional still working in British opera. His sin ... seems to be that he has taken too seriously ENO's tradition of being at the forefront of operatic experiment while, simultaneously, balancing requirements of accessibility, solvency and building development ... The ENO board used to trust its general directors and their creative teams, garnering respect from the public and government in return. Last week's events indicate that the current board's view of its role has changed ... This is dangerous and must be questioned by all ... who care about opera and theatre in Britain [and] who value artistic integrity and artistic freedom.'

Six leading directors, including Richard Jones, Phyllida Lloyd, Deborah Warner and Francesca Zambello, have expressed similar horror : 'By forcing Payne's resignation the board of ENO could not have devised a more catastrophic torpedoing of British operatic theatre had it tried. ENO is not a "business". [Its] aim must be to create a new audience that does not see opera as a middle class trophy art form: an audience that Payne was beginning to attract to the Coliseum. We call for the ENO board's decision to be urgently reviewed [and] we deplore the loss of this courageous and visionary man.'

Writers in other national newspapers, several of whom have been critical of some of Mr Payne's ENO productions, rallied to his support, and the view of certain opera heads from Western Europe to San Francisco appears to be a mixture of incredulity, astonishment and fury that someone of proven excellence and leadership should become a sacrifical victim for problems in achieving and selling a cohesive and imaginative operatic vision that are widely viewed as universal in the Opera world.

Copyright © 19 July 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK


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