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Living British Conductors


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Neil McGowan
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« on: September 23, 2015, 12:12:16 pm »

Paul Daniel had a terrible time there.

Yes, I've heard both sides of that story. It's certainly true that the management behaved in an utterly treasonable way towards him. The rot set in when Harewood left, and the careerist snake Jonas arrived. Jonas then ran the company into the ground - and having secured himself a nice position in Europe, scarpered amid the ruins he left behind. (Let us not mention the many professional careers which were sacrificed to Jonas's ruthlessness).

But this is all ancient history now.

ENO has been cast adrift by the Arts Council - who de facto fired its Artistic Director, and have left its management in the hands of beancounters who couldn't tell a semibreve from a semicolon. Rather than face the unpopularity of actually closing ENO down officially, they've just administered 'the death of a thousand cuts'.

I can't say I am impressed by Wigglesworth. I fell asleep during his PARSIFAL at ENO - and only woke up when I dropped my program on my foot. I strongly doubt he has the measure of LADY MAC in him - but the public will find out very soon. I would have gone anyhow, if distance and cost were not an issue. It really needs a Russian conductor to do it justice - Jurowski or Petrenko were at the other end of a can't-tell-you-line, if they'd only bothered to call.

The sad truth that defies ENO's leather-elbow-patch detractors is that the box office 'smash hits' have been the unconventional shows - SATYAGRAHA (although I hated it), NIXON IN CHINA, and so forth - not an empty seat left in the house. The po-faced cries for "classics, in classical productions" are actually the shows where attendance drops below 60%. My last trip to the Coli was in March this year, for a truly woeful* production of THE INDIAN QUEEN. I moved forward in the Dress Circle, and there must have been eight entirely empty rows behind me.

ENO ought to be the proving-ground for a whole generation of British conductors (and it has been in the past) - a place where would-be young conductors can learn the trade as repetiteurs and assistant chorus-masters - and watch their bosses at work. However, the chances of this tried-and-tested process of apprenticeship there now look bleaker and bleaker.

* original libretto thrown away, a whole act of different music inserted, and a worthless guilt-trip about Cortez's slaughter in Mexico (Mexico? Atlas, anyone??) inserted over improvised music (because there is no such slaughter in Purcell's opera).  All the singers were Americans except Lucy Crowe, and they were uniformly abysmal (counter-tenor a whole tone flat). I left at the interval, feeling utterly cheated and angry. But it was Purcell!! Our national composer, eh?  The one David Cameron couldn't even remember.
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