As we go to press, I am happy to report that Arts Council England has decided to rescind their total cut of the grant to the English National Opera and are reinstating £11.46m of National Lottery funding for the next financial year. We are a strong community when we pull together and this decision followed a powerful intervention from Stuart Murphy and Annilese Miskimmon, industry professionals, audience and politicians. Although this represents a 9% cut from the ENO’s previous funding it will allow the company to honour many of the contracts it had made and to continue performing great opera for the widest possible audience in the coming year.
2022 was a year of uncertainty as we came out of the Covid-19 lockdowns and worked to encourage our audiences to return to the theatre, and 2023 brings new challenges in rising operational costs, as well as the continuing bitter conflict following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as a result of which we have decided to continue with suspending the membership dues for our Ukrainian members as well as offering them the possibility of participating in our conference foregoing registration fees.
Open Space is the major theme of the conference, and we will start a membership consultation exercise leading to a strategic plan that will help equip Opera Europa with the tools to confront new challenges in the coming years. Our new President, Ignacio García-Belenguer Laita, is a great motivating force behind this new approach, and for me particularly, at the beginning of my time as Director of Opera Europa, his leadership is inspiring.
A hugely important part of Opera Europa’s work is helping develop the next generation, and they will have an opportunity to present themselves with a roundtable of Opera Management Course and European Opera Prize Alumni which will hopefully encourage even more of our member companies to support applications by their younger team members for these two important development opportunities. I am therefore particularly pleased that our generous host, Uwe Laufenberg, has included a performance of Oryx and Crake by Søren Nils Eichberg, directed by Daniela Kerck, alumnus and winner of the European Opera-Directing Prize.
The International Opera Awards ceremony held in November in the Teatro Real, Madrid, attracted nearly 35,000 views to our live stream on OperaVision, and I am particularly proud, on behalf of Opera Europa, that Nicholas Payne was awarded the special prize: GOOD GOVERNANCE INSTITUTE LEADERSHIP AWARD. His untiring work on behalf of Opera Europa and all its members is exemplary and I will do my best to fill those shoes as diligently and creatively as possible.