ENO is one of the many arts victims of the government's crude and clumsy 'levelling up' agenda. Vicious funding cuts by Arts Council England will see the company effectively evicted from its own home, the Coliseum, with no place to go.
As if to say, are you sure the country will be better off without this?, ENO is putting on its best of the best, reminding those who are already dedicated followers such how impressive the company is, and introducing its many, many new fans to the greatest operas ever written.
Peter Grimes opens the season on 21 Sept. Photo: Geert de Taeye
The season opens on Thurs 21 September with the very welcome return of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes, as directed by David Alden. Gwyn Hughes Jones will sing the title role of misfit fisherman, whose mean and stupid townspeople turn upon him (eight performances, 21 Sept to 11 Oct).
Cal McCrystal's hilarious production of Gilbert and Sullivan's political spoof Iolanthe lightens the mood with a host of ENO stalwarts (13 performances, Thurs 5 to Wed 25 Oct).
A classic production of Verdi's moving La Traviata is revived with Nicole Chevalier as the society hostess Violetta who finds true love with Alfredo, and sacrifices her happiness for another's (eight performances. Mon 23 Oct to Sun 12 Nov).
Soprano Nadine Benjamin sings in The Handmaid's Tale and in 7 Deaths of Maria Callas. Photo: Devon Cass
Performance artist Marina Abramović devises and stars in the season's one new-comer: 7 Deaths of Maria Callas. Abramović was so overwhelmed as a girl by the great soprano Callas, that she revisits seven of the singer's great roles, with a different singer for each, in her live music and video event. Soloists include Nadine Benjamin as Desdemona in Verdi's Otello, Aigul Akhmetshina as Carmen, Sarah Tynan as Donizetti's tormented Lucia and Sophie Bevan as Bellini's high priestess Norma. (Five performances, Fri 3 to Sat 11 Nov.)
The season resumes in February with a revival of Poul Ruders' opera based on Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. A strong cast includes Nadine Benjamin, Susan Bickley, Rachel Nicholls and Kate Lindsey (five performances, Thurs 1 to Thurs 15 Feb 2024).
Then comes Jonathan Miller's pitch-perfect Rossini comedy The Barber of Seville, with Charles Rice as handy Figaro, Anna Devin as trapped Rosina and Innocent Masuku as the count who rescues her from her elderly guardian (seven performances, Mon 12 to Thurs 29 Feb 2024).
Mozart's comic fantasy, The Magic Flute, is revived in the spring. Photo: Donald Cooper
Simon McBurney's genuinely entrancing production of Mozart's The Magic Flute fields another great ENO cast, including Soraya Mafi as Pamina (11 performances Wed 28 Feb to Sat 30 March 2024).
The season closes at the end of March (when funding runs out) with two strong and important pieces. Janáček's dramatic Jenufa has Jennifer Davis in the title role with Susan Bullock as the mother of her heartless lover Steva (John Findon) (six performances Wed 13 to Wed 27 March 2024).
Two performances of a new concert staging of Bartók's dramatic Duke Bluebeard's Castle feature two of our greatest singers today: soprano Natalya Romania as Judith and John Relyea as the mysterious Bluebeard (Thurs 21 and Sat 23 March 2024).
Soprano Natalya Romania sings Judith in Duke Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Antonio Olmos
As in previous seasons, there are free tickets for under-21s, reduced-price seats for under-35s and seats for all from £10. How level can you get? Hats off to ENO for showcasing its finest shows and stars.
Other European capital cities support two or more houses, and while the arts is not having an easy time anywhere, our neighbours must look in pity at Britain's bullied music scene.
Operas are sung in English with English surtitles. Public booking opens at noon on Wed 7 June. Click here for early access through friends and supporters schemes
|English National Opera 2023/24: a starry showcase
|English National Opera, London Coliseum, St Martin's Lane, London, WC2N 4ES | MAP
21 Sep 23 – 27 Mar 24, Nine productions, start times and running times vary
|Click here for information and booking