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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 March, 2005, 13:24 GMT
ENO plays down Glastonbury gaffe
Glastonbury opera
The Glastonbury event featured 91 musicians and 11 soloists
The English National Opera has played down comments made by its chairman Martin Smith suggesting Glastonbury audiences "can hardly spell opera".

The remark, made at a private seminar earlier this year, referred to the ENO's performance of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries at the 2004 festival.

An ENO spokesman admitted Mr Smith had said the audience "had never heard or hardly knew how to spell opera".

But he said his words, printed in The Guardian, were taken out of context.

Mr Smith had in fact been attempting to disprove the notion that opera is elitist, the spokesman said.

"The chairman was speaking with regard to the impact the ENO had going to Glastonbury," he said.

"The seminar was about reaching new audiences, which is what the ENO is trying to do in different and unexpected ways."

He said that the remarks had been "under Chatham House rules" - expressed in confidence - and had been leaked to The Guardian by an unknown source.

Mr Smith's full comment was as follows: "We put [The Ride of the Valkyries] on in front of 50,000 people who had never heard or hardly knew how to spell opera, and they were completely and utterly riveted by it."

"The audience were enraptured by what was going on," said the spokesman. "There was absolute silence."




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