Arts Council England Plans Independent Analysis of Opera; ENO Responds

By Francisco Salazar

Arts Council England (ACE) has announced plans to conduct an independent analysis of opera and musical theatre following criticism of its investment plans.

The news comes after many U.K. companies including the Royal Opera House, English National Opera (EPO), Glyndebourne, and Welsh National Opera released a joint statement asking “the ACE to develop a strategy for opera provision based on industry consultation, audience insight, and data. No opera strategy currently exists or is planned.”

In a statement, the ACE said, “At the Arts Council we have a single 10-year strategy, Let’s Create, which shapes all our investment and development decisions. We will not therefore develop separate artform or sub-artform strategies. But as the national development agency for creativity and culture, for the past few months we have been planning to commission an independent piece of analysis, designed to focus on consideration of opera and music theatre in relation to Let’s Create.”

The statement concluded, “this analysis will help us shape our future investment in opera and music theatre and to develop a shared understanding with the sector of the challenges and opportunities currently faced by it. We will share further details of this work later in the Spring.”

In response to this statement, the English National Opera said, “it’s nonsensical to do a review after allocating funds. it needed to be done beforehand, based on evidence – not pre-existing literature – in consultation with the industry and using all the audience insight that opera companies have sent to ACE as part of their annual reporting requirements. ACE Funding decisions will create lasting damage to the opera ecosystem, and these decisions should have been strategic, coordinated, and informed. ‘Let’s Create’ is a broad strategy which sets success criteria for investment that ACE themselves have not followed. Strategies for art forms are essential and the lack of them is why confidence in ACE among audiences and opera companies is currently in a difficult phase.”