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Thursday, 22 August, 2002, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
ENO 'to stay full-time'
English National Opera
Rumours of radical changes at ENO have brought concern
There are no plans for the English National Opera to become a part-time company or to hire another orchestra in place of its own orchestra, the Arts Council of England has said.

In a letter to The Spectator on Thursday the council, which funds the opera house, went public in its opposition to any plans to change the company's full-time operation.

There have been rumours that the opera company had been considering pans to shut down for 16 months, make many of its staff redundant and use its Coliseum theatre in Covent Garden, central London only part-time.

ENO's A Masked Ball
ENO's A Masked Ball won controversy but not audiences
In the letter, Arts Council chief executive Peter Hewitt said the body had "full confidence" in the ENO board and added "we are committed to it continuing as a full-time operation".

The Arts Council discussed the letter with the opera company before sending it, an ENO spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

The Stage newspaper reported that actors' union Equity has received a similar letter from Kim Evans, the Arts Council's executive director of arts.

Equity had been concerned that its members were being kept in the dark over possible changes to the company, which recently reshuffled its management.

Criticism

The union currently has no plans for any further meetings with ENO, a spokesman told BBC News Online.

In early July Nicholas Payne, ENO's general director, stepped down after heavy criticism of the company's unconventional opera presentations.

Nicholas Payne
Payne: is departure was widely seen as a sacking
The move prompted rumours that ENO chairman Martin Smith was planning radical changes, including a long closure, to cope with a 700,000 deficit and an impending 41m restoration of the Coliseum.

The Musicians Union, which has 109 members playing in the ENO orchestra, has also registered its concern about the future of the company.

But the Arts Council's letter to The Spectator said the funding body supported ENO's plans to date.

"We were consulted about the board's plan to change its management structure and we supported that plan.

"We have full confidence in the Board and the senior management of ENO as they consider the options for the company," wrote Mr Hewitt.

The ENO is getting 13.9m of Arts Council funding during this financial year.

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