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Last Updated: Friday, 21 March, 2003, 15:30 GMT
Troubled opera 'must improve finances'
The English National Opera choir recently called off its strike

The beleaguered English National Opera is worth saving "but not at any cost", the Arts Council of England has said at a meeting discussing ENO's cash troubles.

The Arts Council board is deciding how much money is needed to stop the ENO from going bust, and whether it deserves a publicly-funded rescue package.

The ENO has been plunged into financial crisis several times, with grants from the Arts Council of England helping to keep it afloat.

Gerry Robinson, chairman of the council, said that if ENO is to have an "artistically successful and financially stable long-term future, it must deliver value for money".

'Pure speculation'

He added that it must break its "pattern of recurring financial crisis".

The ENO is hoping the government-backed body will bail it out again following the ongoing meeting between the two parties, which began on Tuesday.

An Arts Council spokeswoman said the funding discussions with the opera company were still ongoing.

She added that a newspaper report that the council had turned down a request to "save the company from bankruptcy" was pure speculation.

"Talks are ongoing. We have not turned anything down," she said.

'Considerable progress'

The Arts Council also welcomed news of the breakthrough in negotiations between ENO management and Equity, the union representing the ENO chorus.

ENO choir members called off their threatened strike action on Thursday after making a deal with their bosses.

About one-sixth of the singers agreed to take voluntary redundancy, leaving a permanent chorus of 50.

Consequently, ENO lifted the threat of compulsory redundancy which prompted the first strike action last month.

The Arts Council said this "signals considerable progress in achieving the changes at ENO that will allow the company to move towards a financially stable future".

'Significant changes'

Earlier this week the council reaffirmed its support for ENO's board and management in addressing the company's "problems".

The council recognised, from an analysis of ENO's current costs, that the company's future survival is dependent on "significant changes taking place".

ENO gets 13.9m in revenue from the council for 2002/3, and this figure rises to 15m in 2003/4.

In 1997 ENO was awarded 9.2m by the council.

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