Further news on the future of English National Opera

The ENO is surprised that Martyn Brabbins has decided to end his tenure as Music Director so abruptly.

As a member of the ENO’s senior leadership, Martyn has been party to all key discussions at all stages and the extremely difficult decisions that have to be made by the Board and Management in constrained financial circumstances.

After nine months of negotiation with Arts Council England, the ENO has reached a position where we are confident we can maintain a substantial level of operatic work – as opposed to the original reality of total redundancy across the entire company (following Art Council England’s previous decision to remove the ENO as a National Portfolio Organisation in November 2022).

As recorded in Board minutes, an all-staff meeting and in correspondence with Management and the Board, Martyn agreed that the position reached with Arts Council England in July 2023 provides a workable outcome. As the ENO’s musical leader, we are disappointed that Martyn has chosen to resign rather than support the company by engaging with the process of creating a sustainable future for the ENO.

Previous News


‘I cannot in all conscience continue to support the board and management’s strategy for the future of the company. While my feelings on this have been developing for some time, it reached its nadir this week, with the internal announcement of severe cuts to its orchestra and chorus from 2024-25 season.

Although making cuts has been necessitated by Arts Council England’s interference in the company’s future, the proposed changes would drive a coach and horses through the artistic integrity of the whole of ENO as a performing company, while also singularly failing to protect our musicians’ livelihoods.

This is a plan of managed decline, rather than an attempt to rebuild the company and maintain the world-class artistic output for which ENO is rightly famed.

I urge ACE to reassess this situation and recognise the devastating implications their funding decisions will have on the lives of individual musicians, as well as the reputation of the UK on the international stage.’


Today, Arts Council England​ (ACE)​ announced a grant of £24 million for the English National Opera​ (ENO)​ for April 2024 to March 2026, and a longer timeframe for the ENO to complete the establishment of a new main base outside the capital.

During the 2024-26 period, the ENO will develop an artistic programme in the new city, whilst transitioning to a new business model, which will see the company deliver a substantial opera season every year in London while developing a significant performance and engagement programme in their new city. The ENO plans to confirm the location of the new city in December this year.  

The move to the new base will be completed by March 2029, rather than by March 2026 as originally envisaged. The longer timeframe will mean more stability, allow for consultation with staff, more work in London and more time for the ENO to develop partnerships in the new city and to establish a programme there.

In February 2022, the UK Government instructed the Arts Council to redistribute some of its funding from London to other parts of the country. Arts Council decided to continue to support the ENO but outside its National Portfolio, and in November 2022 it announced it had ringfenced funding for the ENO. Since then, the two organisations have been working together closely as the ENO works to establish a new base outside of London whilst continuing to own, manage and produce work at the London Coliseum. In total, the Arts Council is investing £35.46 million in the ENO between 2023-26.

The shared ambition is for the ENO to be in a strong position to apply to the Arts Council’s National Portfolio of funded organisations from 2026.

Sir Nicholas Serota, Arts Council England, Chair, said: ‘As custodians of public money, the Arts Council has led a rigorous process that has carefully considered ENO’s application. The ENO has presented inspiring ideas to bring their excellent work to people beyond the capital and to explore a range of new ways of presenting opera, and we are investing £24 million in the company over two years to help them realise these ambitions. The extended timeline for their transition to a new main base will enable the ENO to undertake this complex move and to develop partnerships in the new city. The Arts Council’s support for opera is unwavering, and we are excited by the ENO’s new plans and by the enthusiasm shown by the potential host cities.

Dr Harry Brünjes, Chair, The English National Opera said: ‘The ENO Board and Management look forward to working with the Arts Council to develop this positive future for the organisation. We welcome this investment and additional time which we believe will help us to successfully develop a new main base out of London, whilst maintaining a season at the London Coliseum. We are pleased that Arts Council England support the artistic plans we have proposed in tandem with our longstanding wish to engage with new audiences and partners around the country.

Our most recent season at the London Coliseum was a fantastic success, and we now have an opportunity to build upon that both within London and from our new base. It is important to note the hard work of our outgoing CEO, Stuart Murphy, and our incoming Interim CEO Jenny Mollica, alongside the ENO’s Artistic Director, Annilese Miskimmon, and Music Director, Martyn Brabbins, throughout this process.’

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: ‘The English National Opera is a treasured national institution and I welcome the agreement they reached with Arts Council England to ensure a smooth transition towards a new future for the organisation. I look forward to seeing the plans it develops to make sure more people across the country can experience its fantastic work.’

Following development work by the English National Opera (ENO), Arts Council England has set a budget of up to £24million investment for 2024-26. The company will now start the process of making an application to the Arts Council for an award up to this amount. ENO’s developing plans are based on a reimagined artistic and business model with a primary base out of London, whilst continuing to own, manage and put on work at the London Coliseum.

The provisional budget of up to £24million investment for 2024-25 and 2025-26 is to support the ENO make a phased transition to this new artistic and business model, and will include work split between their new main base and London. This will be subject to application and assessment with a decision by the Arts Council expected this summer. This funding would be in addition to the £11.46 million already agreed for 2023/24.

The shared ambition is for the ENO to be in a strong position to apply to the Arts Council’s National Portfolio of funded organisations from 2026.

For more information about English National Opera click here

The English National Opera are pleased to confirm that, following negotiations with Arts Council England, the organisation is to receive £11.46m of National Lottery funding for the next financial year, starting 1st April 2023. This represents a 9% cut from the ENO’s previous funding.

The delay in confirming our financial status has meant that our plans for the season ahead will inevitably have to change, including the postponement of a number of new productions as well as our current Ring cycle, in partnership with the Met, which was due to continue with a new production of Siegfried next season.

However, this level of funding will allow us to honour many of the contracts of the hundreds of freelancers we hire every year, and enable us to continue to make incredible opera available for everyone, in English, with hugely subsidised tickets. It will also allow us to continue the award-winning ENO Breathe, available via 85 NHS Trusts, and ‘Finish This’, available in over 200 schools across the country.

We do remain concerned that this only gives audiences and our workforce one year’s reprieve, and still leaves a huge amount of uncertainty regarding the ENO’s future. For the ENO to meaningfully deliver on the Government’s levelling-up agenda, ACE needs to invest in the organisation at an appropriate level going forward. This has to be done in the context of ACE developing an opera strategy, in conversations with audiences and our colleagues across the industry – something that is still yet to be undertaken by ACE.

The ENO and our audiences remain in the dark as to why ACE decided to remove our status as a National Portfolio Organisation, despite us meeting or exceeding all the criteria they set: one in seven of our audience are under 35, one in five of our principal performers are ethnically diverse and over 50% of our audience are brand new to opera. We have been bringing opera to people nationally via multiple completely free broadcasts, in innovative ways such as car parks via drive-in opera and over TikTok, as well as in more traditional settings, and over 50% of visitors to opera at the Coliseum are from out of London.

Our hope is that, as negotiations for investment for future years continue, some clarity will be provided.

In the meantime, we want to thank everyone for their continued support during this difficult and worrying time for everyone at the ENO.

4 thoughts on “Further news on the future of English National Opera”

  1. I am in love with opera because of ENO, I had never been to opera but went to Satyagraha in 2008 because a friend persuaded ne when I was in London since then I have seen several others in Scotland where I live but I have come to every opera (twice) directed by Phelim from Improbable and hope there are new collaborations planned.

  2. The ENO productions sound wonderful – are innovative, look wonderful. Audiences are totally engaged … My son asked for tickets for Philip Glass when he was 18 … and took a puzzled but now hooked friend … London is not the enemy of greatness but the nurturer of it.

  3. I have been attending ENO ever since my student days and seen more opera here than anywhere else. It’s loss for London opera goers especially younger ones will be incalculable. I glad the Arts Council has thought twice and given a reprieve. I hope they are now thinking about full restoration.

  4. For most of my life I disliked opera, especially the style of singing, thought it failed as an art form. Then a friend took me to a Handel opera at The London Coliseum…now I’m hooked. ENO changed what opera can be, how it communicates, and how it’s musical qualities are revealed. Now it is going even further with ways to connect. It must not be allowed to fail. The UK government are failing our cultural lives in every area.


Leave a Comment