<< -- 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
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