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EDITIONS
Friday, 12 July, 2002, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Embattled opera boss steps down
A Masked Ball
Verdi's A Masked Ball came in for a critical drubbing
The general director of the English National Opera (ENO), Nicholas Payne, has resigned after what has been widely seen as a disastrous season for the opera company.

Mr Payne, 57, has run the company for four years but recently has been criticised for a series of productions.

Some shows have had poor notices and, in some cases, provoked anger and booing from audiences.

The opera house, which is reported to have made heavy losses in the last year, is also grappling with a major restoration pan for the Edwardian theatre, The Coliseum, where it is based in London.

Nicholas Payne
Payne: "A unique understanding of opera"
Mr Payne will be replaced by Caroline Felton, who will assume the role of acting managing director alongside music director Paul Daniel.

ENO chairman Martin Smith praised Mr Payne's "unique understanding of opera".

"I have no doubt that he will continue to be a formidable presence on the arts scene," he said.

Mr Payne had endured heavy criticism after a number of unusual productions apparently intended to shock.

February's production of Verdi's A Masked Ball opened with 14 of the cast sitting on lavatories and included simulated sex and masturbation.

'Garbage'

Despite much press, ticket sales fell to 65% of capacity.

And in June, director Calixto Bieito's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni, with its drug-taking and simulated fellatio, was booed by the audience and described by The Independent's Edward Seckerson as "garbage".

The Coliseum
ENO performs all its operas in English
The company has also had to deal with the impending disruption of a move to the Barbican theatre, while an extensive 41m restoration takes place.

ENO is expected to be back on its home site early in 2004.

Mr Payne's defenders have pointed to a string of acclaimed productions during his tenure, including Prokofiev's War And Peace and Mark-Anthony Turnage's The Silver Tassie.

Evening Standard music critic Norman Lebrecht described him as "one of the cleverest opera administrators".

In his leaving statement, Mr Payne said: "I have developed great respect and affection for my colleagues at ENO over the last four years. I wish the company every success in the future."

See also:

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