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Martyn Brabbins Resigns from the English National Opera Over Proposed Cuts

The proposed cuts would see 19 musicians lose their jobs entirely, with the others being retained on a contract basis

 

The English conductor Martyn Brabbins recently announced that he would resign from his position as Music Director of the English National Opera (ENO) — in protest at the substantial cuts to the company proposed by Arts Council England (ACE).

On October 13, 2023, ACE proposed to cut 19 full-time positions in the ENO orchestra, and stated that the remaining musicians would only be retained on a contract basis.

The proposal comes in the wake of a number of financial issues. In March 2016, conductor Mark Wigglesworth also resigned from the company when 29% of its funding was removed. Then, in 2022, ACE opted to take ENO out of the National Portfolio and ordered the company to move its base of operations out of London if it was to retain any funding at all.

Brabbins has been in the Music Director post since 2016 and has also held positions at the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, the Nagoya Philharmonic, and the Cheltenham International Festival of Music.

"I cannot in all conscience continue to support the board and management’s strategy for the future of the company," Brabbins said in a statement released by his management. "While my feelings on this have been developing for some time, it reached its nadir this week, with the internal announcement of severe cuts to its orchestra and chorus from 2024-25 season."

"Although making cuts has been necessitated by Arts Council England’s interference in the company’s future, the proposed changes would drive a coach and horses through the artistic integrity of the whole of ENO as a performing company, while also singularly failing to protect our musicians’ livelihoods."

"This is a plan of managed decline, rather than an attempt to rebuild the company and maintain the world-class artistic output for which ENO is rightly famed. I urge ACE to reassess this situation and recognize the devastating implications their funding decisions will have on the lives of individual musicians, as well as the reputation of the UK on the international stage."

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