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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
ENO to take fewer risks
A Masked Ball
A Masked Ball came in for heavy criticism
The English National Opera (ENO) has vowed to put a season of bad reviews and low audiences behind it after admitting it had made mistakes.

The ENO, long seen as the poor relation to the Royal Opera House, ran into fierce criticism for some of its radical adaptations, which included a cocaine-snorting Don Giovanni.

But the 2002/3 season seems to be playing it safe with a revival of perennial favourite Tosca and a revival of Berlioz's The Trojans.

The season will be cut short because of a 41m refurbishment of its Coliseum Theatre base in London, which aims to raise its standing with the opera community.

Some of our supporters would say that there were too many risks in the last season

Nicholas Payne General director
General director Nicholas Payne said the ENO was determined to concentrate on winning back its core audience.


One performance which came in for criticism was Verdi's A Masked Ball, which featured homosexual rape, satanic sex rituals and masturbation.

Catalan director Calixto Bieito was behind both A Masked Ball and the controversial Don Giovanni, which was greeted with boos from a section of the audience on its first night.

"Some of our supporters would say that there were too many risks in the last season," said Mr Payne.

"I would say in self-defence that you must take some of those risks. But we've slightly learnt our lessons."

As well as being critical flops they were also seen as commercial as many regular theatregoers stayed away.

The new season should appeal to more traditional opera lovers.

Berlioz's The Trojans will be staged in two parts to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the French composer's birth.

The production will be staged as a whole when the company returns to its revamped home in 2004.

Mr Payne also said the ENO would produce less one-off operas, and concentrate on enticing back original directors to revive their works.


It will also focus on English opera through the centuries, reviving popular masterpieces and Wagner's Ring Cycle.

The ENO will relocate to the Barbican this summer while renovation work goes ahead, filling the gap left by the Royal Shakespeare Company which recently quit its London base.

The ENO prides itself on producing all of its operas in English, with the aim of attracting new audiences who would usually be put off by the art form's elitist reputation.

Its top ticket price of 66 is considerably cheaper than the 160 paid for expensive seats at the nearby Royal Opera House, which recently underwent a 200m facelift.

Plans for the Coliseum include replacing the stalls and boxes - which have a reputation for being dark and dingy - and should be completed by Christmas 2003.

See also:

27 Apr 01 | Music
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18 Apr 01 | Music
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01 Jun 01 | Arts
Boos greet coke-snorting opera
06 May 00 | Entertainment
Church wins Classical Brit award
28 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Curtain up on Classical Brits
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