The English National Opera‘s new 2021/22 main stage season heralds the ENO’s ambitious return to the London Coliseum following the coronavirus pandemic theatre closures. In line with our founding principle, the season has been designed to delight aficionados and newcomers alike, with a range of audience favourites and bold new productions.
The ENO’s 2021/22 season features four new productions and three revivals with a total of 67 performances.
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This broad spectrum of opera encompass not only beautiful, entertaining and moving stories, but also address issues that resonate with us today.
Multi-award winning comedy director Cal McCrystal returns to the ENO to direct the first production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore in the company’s history.
Acclaimed director and fellow multi-award winner Richard Jones directs Wagner’s The Valkyrie, the first production in a new Ring Cycle to be staged at the London Coliseum across the next five years, co-produced with the Metropolitan Opera.
Jamie Manton makes a main stage directorial debut with a new production of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen. Sally Matthews takes the title role, returning to the ENO for the first time since 2005.
ENO Artistic Director Annilese Miskimmon makes her ENO directorial debut with a new production of Ruders’s The Handmaid’s Tale, featuring a house and role debut for Kate Lindsey and conducted by the outstanding young Portuguese conductor Joana Carneiro.
Revivals comprise Phelim McDermott’s captivating Satyagraha, with Sean Panikkar returning to the ENO in the role of Gandhi conducted by Carolyn Kuan, Jonathan Miller’s much loved La bohème, conducted by Ben Glassberg, and Phelim McDermott’s Così fan tutte, conducted by Kerem Hasan in an ENO debut, and with three ENO Harewood Artists in principal roles.
The season showcases some of the industry’s finest operatic talent across casts and creatives. 90% of the cast this season is British, British-based or British-trained, continuing the ENO’s commitment to support and nurture homegrown talent. The ENO continues to develop new talent through the renowned ENO Harewood Artists programme and ENO Mackerras Fellowship.
This season’s productions also play host to talent from around the world, including ENO debuts by Kate Lindsey, Pumeza Matshikiza, Amitai Pati, Carolyn Kuan and welcome returns for artists including Joana Carneiro, Sean Panikkar, Soloman Howard and David Junghoon Kim.
To continue the successful development of new audiences, the ENO will expand its under 18s come free ticket offer to now include under 21s at all performances and at all levels of the house. The ENO will also be extending discounts available to those under 35. Ticket prices for everyone will start at £10.
Following the success of the ENO’s first ever relaxed performance last season, two more are planned on the main stage for this season, which are designed to be more accessible for those who may benefit from a more relaxed environment at the theatre.
The ENO’s social prescribing intervention for long-COVID, ENO Breathe, in partnership with Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust, will continue throughout 2021/22, supporting patients managing long-term symptoms of breathlessness and anxiety post-illness.
The ENO will launch Finish This… a new creative music making programme for primary and secondary aged learners. Using specially commissioned operatic works as a starting point, learners will respond to and resolve unfinished music, created with the full forces of the ENO Chorus and Orchestra.
ENO Artistic Director Annilese Miskimmon says: ‘To join the ENO at such a turbulent time for the industry has been a privilege as I have been blown away by the energy and commitment of the company and the fabulous freelance talent we work with. We have worked hard in lockdown to continue to bring new artistic work in innovative and pioneering ways. The overwhelming determination of all to create ambitious and brilliant opera no matter what the challenges will make this a very special season for the ENO.
We have painstakingly planned this new season to give audiences a wealth of choice. The ENO’s belief that opera can provide an emotionally invaluable experience in good times and bad is demonstrated by our season which sees a return of old favourites and bold new productions. The season is one in which all can encounter the joy, the drama and the emotion of the most beautiful of art forms.
The 2021/22 season offers a collection of stories from across opera’s history that are as pertinent today as ever. We have not let the past difficult year dim our ambition and I look forward to welcoming audiences both new and old back to the ENO’s home, the London Coliseum.’
ENO Music Director Martyn Brabbins comments: ‘It has been a pleasure to work with Annilese on curating this long-awaited season. Whilst the seats in our home the London Coliseum have remained empty, the innovation shown across the company – from drive-ins to concert work – has enabled us to share our work in new and ambitious ways. It is with this zeal that we return to performing to live audiences.
It is a huge privilege to work with such exciting talent to bring our new season of operas to life. This will be a homecoming for the company, and we look forward to welcoming old and new faces alike to our stage, pit and house.’
ENO CEO Stuart Murphy says: ‘After 3 years at the company, I continue to be inspired by the relentless innovation at the heart of the ENO. We have kept audiences’ needs front and centre during lockdown, from our social prescribing intervention for long-COVID ENO Breathe, to drive-in La bohème, TV coverage of Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah to ‘Nessun Dorma’ on Comic Relief, enabling millions to experience the ENO’s work. We were founded to bring world class opera to everyone, and I’m very proud that the ENO reaffirmed its place as the national opera house for everyone.
Our teams produced work in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, we were proactive and unequivocal in our continual push for greater fairness and representation on stage, backstage and in the pit, and we showed operational resilience and flexibility in the face of continual change.
This season we will extend our free ticket scheme to everyone under the age of 21, proactively growing the next generation of opera fans. Significantly, this will include seats across all parts of the auditorium and for every performance. We are unique in offering this, only possible thanks to the public investment from Arts Council England and the DCMS. Our commitment to those with disabilities, health conditions and different access needs, continues and this year we are delighted to grow the number of relaxed performances, with two more, both on the main stage.
The ENO is changing, expanding and growing, and under the expert artistic guidance of Annilese Miskimmon and Martyn Brabbins, we have never been more confident in the direction of the company.’
New productions at the London Coliseum
Hot on the heels of his ‘grand and gorgeous extravaganza’ (Daily Telegraph) Iolanthe, Cal McCrystal will direct a new production of another Gilbert and Sullivan comic classic − HMS Pinafore. This will be the first time that the ENO has ever staged the work. An acclaimed comedy director and the mastermind behind some of the most celebrated comic scenes in theatre and film (One Man, Two Guvnors, Paddington), Cal lends his trademark slapstick humour to this farcical satire of the British class system, packed with witty characters aboard a grand naval vessel. HMS Pinafore’s score abounds with memorable musical moments: sea shanties, patter songs and witty reimaginings of patriotic anthems. Conducting is Chris Hopkins, Principal Conductor of English Sinfonia, Musical Director of Orchestra of the City and ENO regular, following on from his success conducting The Mikado last season.
A multi-talented cast brings Pinafore’s absurd characters to life. Making his operatic debut as Sir Joseph, First Lord of the Admiralty, is actor and comedian Les Dennis. Bass-baritone John Savournin sings Captain Corcoran and ENO Harewood Artist Elgan Llŷr Thomas is Ralph Rackstraw, following his role as Nanki-Poo in last season’s The Mikado, whilst new Harewood Artist Alexandra Oomens makes her ENO debut as Josephine. They are joined by award-winning baritone Marcus Farnsworth as the Boatswain, and Henry Waddington returns to the ENO as Dick Deadeye. Making a much anticipated ENO debut is Bethan Langford as Hebe with sought-after contralto Hilary Summers making a welcome return as Buttercup.
The seafaring set and costumes are by Greek designer takis whose work has graced the stages of theatres across the UK and abroad and whose installations have also appeared at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Design Museums in both London and Helsinki. Reuniting with Cal after Iolanthe is leading West End choreographer Lizzi Gee and lighting designer Tim Mitchell.
This autumn will see the first of celebrated director Richard Jones’s new Ring Cycle productions, which will be staged at the London Coliseum over the next five years, co-produced with the Metropolitan Opera. Commencing with The Valkyrie, a heroic tale of power and conflict set against the rich landscape of Norse mythology, eight-time Olivier Award-winner Richard Jones joins forces with ENO’s Music Director Martyn Brabbins to bring Wagner’s thunderous story to life. This is Richard Jones’s first production for the ENO in 5 years. With a new English translation by John Deathridge, the production is designed by Stuart Laing, with Adam Silverman as lighting designer, Sarah Fahie as movement director and Akhila Krishnan as video designer.
Leading a stellar cast is Matthew Rose, who makes a role debut as the mighty Wotan, returning to the ENO following his ‘smoothly sonorous King Mark’ (The Guardian) in 2016’s Tristan and Isolde. Established Wagnerian Rachel Nicholls, who sang a ‘delightful’ (The Daily Express) Eva in the ENO’s 5-star 2015 production of The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, revisits the role of Brünnhilde.
Nicky Spence makes his role debut as Siegmund. A former ENO Harewood Artist, versatile Scottish tenor Nicky’s last Wagner role at the ENO was a ‘world-class’ (The Independent) David in 2015’s The Mastersingers of Nuremberg. Singing his twin sister Sieglinde and also making a role debut is Emma Bell, whose performance in the Royal Opera House’s Tannhäuser in 2016 rocketed her ‘into the Wagnerian premier league’ (The Times).
Respected bass Brindley Sherratt sings Hunding, and ENO favourite Susan Bickley is Fricka. The eponymous Valkyries are sung by a selection of first-class voices. Current and former ENO Harewood Artists Nadine Benjamin, Idunnu Münch, Katie Stevenson and Claire Barnett-Jones are Gerhilde, Siegrune, Grimgerde, and Rossweisse respectively. Jennifer Davis makes her ENO debut as Helmwige, following a leading role in Wagner’s Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House in 2018. Sarah-Jane Lewis sings Waltraute, Fleur Barron is Schwertleite and Mari Wyn Williams is Ortlinde.
The Cunning Little Vixen
One of Janáček’s best-loved later works, this production of The Cunning Little Vixen will be the first time the company has staged the opera since 2001. With a score typical of Janáček’s musical style − incorporating the folk music and speech rhythms of his Moravian roots − the tale of the capture and escape of the titular fox treads a careful balance between comic and tragic. This new production is contemporarily staged, contrasting the ageing human world with the constant renewal of the animal kingdom. This is director Jamie Manton’s first main stage production for the ENO, having previously directed The Day After at Lilian Baylis House and Paul Bunyan − ‘an exhilarating experience’ (The Mail on Sunday) – at Wilton’s Music Hall and Alexandra Palace Theatre. Joining Jamie to lead the ENO Orchestra is Martyn Brabbins, conducting his second production of the season. Set and costumes are by Tom Scutt, lighting by Lucy Carter, and movement direction is by Jenny Ogilvie.
Making a much anticipated return to the ENO in the role of Vixen is outstanding British soprano Sally Matthews who last appeared at the London Coliseum in David McVicar’s La clemenza di Tito in 2005. Making her ENO debut this season as Fox is South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza. The Forester is sung by Lester Lynch, returning to the ENO following 2018’s ‘superb’ (Daily Telegraph) Lucia di Lammermoor. The Forester’s Wife is former ENO Harewood Artist Madeleine Shaw, and Alan Oke sings the first of two roles this season, as both Schoolmaster/Mosquito. Joining them is renowned bass Clive Bayley as both Priest/Badger and Welsh soprano Ffion Edwards as Frantík/Jay. Completing the cast are current Harewoods Claire Barnett-Jones, John Findon, and Alexandra Oomens as Dog, Innkeeper (Pásek)/Cock and Pepík/Woodpecker respectively.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Artistic Director Annilese Miskimmon will make her ENO directorial debut this season with a new production of Poul Ruders’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The ENO last staged this outstandingly relevant work in 2003, when it received its first English language debut at the London Coliseum. Based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian masterpiece of the same name (the basis of the hugely successful Hulu series of the same name starring Elisabeth Moss), the opera is set in a totalitarian state in which women, stripped of their identities and rights, are subjected to the whims of a patriarchal republic. Ruders’s minimalist score is filled with tension and unease, reflecting the brutality of the regime. Annilese’s previous work includes the ‘intelligent and sensitive’ (The Guardian) Jenůfa for Scottish Opera/Danish National Opera and a critically acclaimed production of Billy Budd whilst Opera Director of Norwegian National Opera. Making a much anticipated return to the ENO following her ‘superbly conducted’ (The Guardian) The Gospel According to the Other Mary (John Adams) is commended Portugese conductor Joana Carneiro. Principal Conductor of the Orquestra Sinfónica Portuguesa, Joana is highly sought after for her specialism in contemporary works. Set and costumes are by Annemarie Woods, with lighting by Paule Constable and video designed by Akhila Krishnan.
Acclaimed mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey makes both her role and ENO debuts as heroine Offred. Following his ‘impressive’ (Daily Telegraph) ENO debut in last season’s Luisa Miller, bass Soloman Howard returns, singing The Commander. ENO Harewood Artist John Findon joins the cast as Luke whilst ENO favourite Emma Bell sings Aunt Lydia. Following his successful UK debut in 2018’s Porgy and Bess, tenor Frederick Ballentine is Nick, and making her ENO debut is Raehann Bryce-Davis as Serena Joy. Another exciting talent making her ENO debut is Elin Pritchard singing Ofglen. Also included in this compelling lineup are Susan Bickley as Offred’s Mother, Pumeza Matshikiza as Moira and Alan Oke as The Doctor. They are joined by former ENO Harewood Artists Rhian Lois as Janine/Ofwarren and Madeline Shaw as Rita.
Revival productions at the London Coliseum
Returning for its fourth revival at the ENO is Phelim McDermott’s ‘unmissable masterpiece’ (Daily Telegraph) Satyagraha. A collaboration between the ENO and theatre company Improbable, Satyagraha marries Philip Glass’s hypnotic score with mesmerising stagecraft. The second in Glass’s ‘Portrait Trilogy’ (Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha and Akhnaten), Satyagraha is based on Mahatma Gandhi’s early years in South Africa, exploring the leader’s development of non-violent protest, its non-linear libretto written entirely in Sanskrit.
Making her much anticipated ENO debut is Taiwanese conductor Carolyn Kuan. Carolyn is Music Director at the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in the US and recently conducted the world premiere of Iain Bell’s Stonewall with the New York City Opera.
After ‘stealing the show’ (Opera Now) during his ENO debut as Don José in 2020’s Carmen, American tenor Sean Panikkar makes a welcome return to the company, starring as M.K. Gandhi after a critically acclaimed role debut at Los Angeles Opera. Following 2017’s ‘impressive’ (The Times) UK debut in Aida, Musa Ngqungwana sings Lord Krishna. New ENO Harewood bass William Thomas makes his London Coliseum live audience debut as Parsi Rustomji following his soloist appearance in the national broadcast of Handel’s Messiah in March 2021. After huge success covering roles on stage in the ENO’s previous productions of Rigoletto and Orpheus in the Underworld, Gabriella Cassidy makes her official ENO debut as Miss Schlesen, while Ross Ramgobin makes his London Coliseum debut as Prince Arjuna following ENO Drive & Live: La bohème in September 2020. The cast is completed by James Cleverton as Mr Kallenbach, Felicity Buckland as Kasturbai − making her debut as a soloist − and Sarah Pring, who returns to the role of Mrs Alexander.
Set in inter-war Paris, Jonathan Miller’s now iconic production of La bohème has travelled to stages around the world since its premiere in 2009, and now returns to the London Coliseum. In the pit is Ben Glassberg, one of Britain’s most exciting young conductors, who last conducted the ENO Orchestra at Regents Park Open Air Theatre for 2019’s Olivier Award-nominated co-production of Hansel & Gretel. Ben is currently Music Director at Opéra de Rouen Normandie, and Principal Conductor of the Glyndebourne Tour.
Soprano Sinéad Campell-Wallace makes her ENO debut as Mimì, with former Harewood Artist Nadine Benjamin sharing the role for two performances. They are joined by David Junghoon Kim as Rodolfo, reprising his role following ENO Drive & Live: La bohème and returning to the London Coliseum after delivering a performance imbued with ‘radiance, lyricism and power’ (The Stage) in 2020’s Luisa Miller. Baritone Charles Rice sings Marcello, and Louise Alder makes a welcome return to the ENO as Musetta, whose ‘vocal warmth’ (The Arts Desk) as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro was cut short by theatre closures in March 2020. The role of Schaunard is shared by Harewood Artists Alex Otterburn and Benson Wilson, the latter sang this role in ENO Drive & Live. Also reprising his Drive & Live role is William Thomas as Colline; his second ENO engagement of the season. Completing the cast is originator of these roles Simon Butteriss, as both Benoit and Alcindoro.
Così fan tutte
Also returning for a triumphant revival is Phelim McDermott’s riotous Così fan tutte, created in collaboration with Improbable. Premiering in 2014, the production transports audiences to a faded 1950s Coney Island-esque seaside attraction complete with pleasure garden, fairground rides, and an end-of-the-pier circus sideshow. A cast of exciting new talent – including three ENO Harewood Artists in main roles – will be joined by an ensemble of spectacular circus skills performers to set the scene and Phelim McDermott returns to direct. Taking up the baton for his ENO debut is young British conductor Kerem Hasan, Chief Conductor of the Tiroler Symphonieorchester-Innsbruck. Winner of Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award, Kerem has recently conducted the London Symphony Orchestra and the Oslo Philharmonic.
Nardus Williams, who recently shared the role of Mimì in ENO Drive & Live: La bohème, makes a role debut as Fiordiligi. Mezzo-soprano Hanna Hipp, who sang Cherubino in 2020’s The Marriage of Figaro will sing the role of her sister Dorabella, a role Hanna has previously sung for Seattle Opera. Known as part of the New Zealand operatic trio Sol3 Mio, tenor Amitai Pati makes his ENO debut as Ferrando, with Harewood Artist Benson Wilson singing Guglielmo following a ‘strong’ (Opera) Schaunard in ENO Drive & Live. They are joined by another current Harewood Artist, ‘diamantine’ (Daily Telegraph) soprano Soraya Mafi, also fresh from ENO Drive & Live where she sang Musetta. ENO favourite Neal Davies completes this lineup as Don Alfonso, returning to the London Coliseum following 2017’s Rodelinda.
Learning and Participation
The ENO’s social prescribing intervention for long-COVID, ENO Breathe, will continue throughout 2021/22, providing crucial support for patients managing long-term symptoms of breathlessness and anxiety post illness. As part of its ongoing rollout in post-COVID recovery, ENO Breathe is working with up to 1,000 patients in total across the country through referrals from 30 NHS long-COVID assessment clinics in regions across England.
This autumn, the ENO will launch a brand new creative music making programme for primary and secondary aged learners across London, Luton and Liverpool. Using specially commissioned operatic works as a starting point, Finish This… supports children and young people to create and produce their own music through an invitation to respond to, and resolve, unfinished artistic work. Alongside new artistic commissions from the ENO, the programme will include a package of live and digital resources designed to support students and teachers through a creative music making process in the classroom, including educational films, professional development for teachers and composition toolkits (tailored accordingly for primary and secondary aged learners). Produced with the ENO Orchestra and Chorus, the Finish This… artistic commissions for 2021/22 are ‘Blue Red Yellow…’ by Opera Schmopera and Ruth Mariner (primary) and ‘Under the Same Sky’ by Jessie Maryon Davies and Hazel Gould (secondary).
In addition, our Learning & Participation department will launch a refreshed version of its schools partnerships programme from September. Continuing to work across London, Liverpool and Luton, the ENO will further expand its reach and provision in schools to include new partnerships with primary and SEND schools, in addition to its current secondary schools offer.
Giving new talent a platform and showcasing the wealth of nationwide operatic talent is fundamental to the ENO’s vision. Our talent development programmes continue to nurture talent and develop the next generation of British and British-trained singers, conductors, directors and instrumentalists. Demonstrating our ongoing support and development of British talent, 90% of the cast this season are British or British-trained.
ENO’s flagship training programme, the ENO Harewood Artist programme, gives exceptionally talented singers the opportunity to perform and cover career-building roles with a major opera company while receiving a bespoke programme of specialist coaching and training, guidance and support over a two-three year period. Across the upcoming 21/22 season 15 roles are performed by current ENO Harewood Artists, and 7 by former ENO Harewood Artists.
The 12 Harewood Artists supported during the 2021/22 season are: Soraya Mafi (soprano), Alexandra Oomens (soprano), Nardus Williams (soprano), Claire Barnett-Jones (mezzo-soprano), Idunnu Münch (mezzo-soprano), John Findon (tenor), William Morgan (tenor), Elgan Llŷr Thomas (tenor), Alex Otterburn (baritone), Benson Wilson (baritone), David Ireland (bass-baritone), William Thomas (bass)
As part of the ENO’s continued efforts to make the opera industry more accessible, inclusive and representative of the society in which we live, the Chorus and Orchestra Fellowships and Director Observership programme, which launched in 2019, will continue to run into the new season. A new recruitment of five string fellows and four choristers from an ethnically diverse background will join the ENO Orchestra and Chorus respectively for the 2021/22 season, while the ENO’s paid Director Observership programme offers the opportunity for four emerging directors from an ethnically diverse background to work alongside world-renowned opera directors, observing the entire process of directing an opera from start to finish. This forms part of the ENO’s continued commitment to nurture diverse talent and increase opportunities for those who are currently under-represented, both in London and nationally.
As part of this goal we are continuing our scheme for aspiring reviewers, ENO Response, for a second season. ENO Response gives aspiring journalists and reviewers the opportunity to produce opera reviews and receive writing advice and feedback.
The ENO’s student placement scheme for instrumentalists, ENO Evolve, gives students the opportunity to work alongside a dedicated full-time opera orchestra. The placement offers undergraduates from the Royal College of Music the chance to play with and learn from our ENO Orchestra.
The ENO Mackerras Fellowship for emerging conductors continues into the new season and is currently held by fellow Olivia Clarke. The structured two-year programme provides a unique opportunity for an exceptional emerging conductor to develop their skills with mentoring from ENO Music Director Martyn Brabbins, members of the ENO music team and visiting conductors; as well as providing invaluable performance opportunities.
Ticket schemes and accessibility
Free tickets will now be available for under 21s for all opera performances, with an allocation on every level of the theatre. This extends our previous offer of free tickets for Under 18s in our Balcony on Fridays, Saturdays and opening nights. We are also significantly increasing our availability of discounted tickets across the season and auditorium. Under 35s is our new, free to join scheme for people under the age of 35, offering great value opera at an accessible price, from some of the best seats in the house. 21-34 year olds with an Under 35s membership can come to any performance for £35 in the Stalls, £25 in the Dress Circle, or £15 in the Upper Circle at the London Coliseum. They have the opportunity to book up to two discounted tickets per production. 16-20 year olds will need to have an Under 35s membership and can book one ticket to each performance free of charge, whilst 5-15 year olds must be accompanied by a paying adult. All opera performance tickets start at £10 and discounted on the day tickets will continue to be available.
We continue to offer British sign language-interpreted performances. The productions this season with signed performances are HMS Pinafore (17 November) and Così fan tutte (16 March).
Finally, following the success of our first ever relaxed performance of The Mikado in 2019, we look forward to offering the same model for two performances in the upcoming season: HMS Pinafore and The Cunning Little Vixen. These relaxed performances are designed to be more accessible for adults and children who may benefit from a more relaxed environment at the theatre, including those with an autism spectrum condition, sensory and communication disorders or learning disabilities.