<< -- 3 -- Robert Hugill WHAT IS THE ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA FOR?
National - A National Opera company?
Doran is also trying to make the case for ENO being a National opera company. But with its touring role taken away from it, this is something which is harder to do. Still, the 2005/2006 season will see 30,000 tickets on sale at under ten pounds, which cannot be bad. Peter Moores Foundation will be recording three operas (Lulu, Carmelites and The Makropulos Case) for their Chandos opera in English. Also, Channel 4 is developing Gaddafi for film/television. I am not sure that this is enough, but it's a start and the current management seem to be keen to open the company up where possible.
Where great strides seem to have been made is in the opening up of the pool of singers that ENO uses. To be credible as a National opera company, ENO must be the place where we can see many of today's major singers in English alongside the promising newcomers. Much work has been done recently in promoting promising newcomers, perhaps with some worries about over-promoting people too early in their career. But the 2005/2006 season sees the appearance of singers like Dame Felicity Lott, Simon Keenlyside, John Tomlinson, Alistair Miles, Marie McLaughlin, Kathryn Harries and Dame Josephine Barstow. This must be balanced against the lack of such artists as Sarah Connolly and Susan Parry, who have made such an impression in recent years. Also, whilst it will be glorious to hear Alice Coote, I wonder at the continuing omission of such artists as Hilary Summers and Mhairi Lawson who have made such a good impression with Christian Curmyn's Early Opera group.
One of the problems with performing in English is that you must persuade singers to learn roles in translation. Some singers are reluctant to learn a role in English if they already have it in repertoire in the original language. Jane Eaglen has gone on record saying she is reluctant to re-learn roles in English so that her two most recent appearances at the Coliseum (in La Gioconda and La Vestale) were in operas that were not in her repertoire. It might be significant that Dame Felicity Lott has sung the title role in La Belle Helene quite frequently, and to considerable acclaim, in Paris, and her appearance in the role in English might be taken as an indication that she does not expect to perform it in French again.
But this is where the strands of Doran's strategy start to mesh together neatly. If his is proposing a repertoire which is heavily based on English language operas, then it will prove easier to welcome established singers without them having to learn a new translation.
Copyright © 29 January 2005
Robert Hugill, London UK