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A New Home for the English National Opera: Shifting to Manchester

English National Opera

The English National Opera (ENO) is embarking on a groundbreaking journey, bidding farewell to London and embracing Manchester as its new home. This pivotal move, prompted by the Arts Council England’s directive, positions Manchester, a city rich in cultural diversity but without its own resident opera company, at the forefront of the UK’s classical music scene.

A Bold Decision: Manchester Over London

In a significant shift, the ENO has chosen Manchester from a list of five potential UK cities, which included Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, and Nottingham. This decision, unfolding a year after the Arts Council England’s stark warning to withdraw the ENO’s £12 million annual funding unless they relocated from London, marks a new chapter for the company.

The Journey North: A Timeline

The transition to Manchester will progress gradually, culminating by 2029. Manchester, the largest European city without a dedicated opera company, will host the ENO at Aviva Studios and the Lowry Theatre in Salford. Although the ENO won’t have a permanent stage in Manchester, these venues will become their new performance spaces.

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Facing Funding Challenges

The move coincides with financial pressures, including threats of severe funding cuts. In October 2023, Martyn Brabbins, the then-Music Director, stepped down to protest the proposed budget reductions, which included cutting 19 full-time positions in the orchestra and shifting the remaining musicians to short-term contracts.

A Statement of Resilience

Jenny Mollica, the ENO’s interim chief executive, reflects on this transition: “As we navigate through significant change, today’s announcement is a defining moment for our remarkable company. Our future direction will enable us to broaden our role as a national institution, creating work for a wider audience across the country, while maintaining our annual season at the London Coliseum.”

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