Martyn Brabbins, the esteemed Music Director of the English National Opera (ENO), has tendered his resignation in a crescendo of protest. His departure reverberates through the hallowed halls of ENO, echoing the strains of artistic integrity and financial strife.
Brabbins, who has held the baton since 2016, follows in the footsteps of his predecessor, Mark Wigglesworth, who also resigned over cuts and job losses. The ENO, like a symphony in turmoil, has faced its share of challenges. In November 2022, it was unceremoniously removed from the National Portfolio by Arts Council England (ACE), threatened with complete funding withdrawal unless it relocated from London. The ensuing public outcry and parliamentary inquiries orchestrated a reprieve, but the strains persisted.
The latest movement in this operatic saga unfolded on October 13, 2023, when ENO management proposed slashing 19 orchestral positions and relegating remaining musicians to part-time contracts. Brabbins, his heartstrings taut with indignation, could no longer harmonize with this discordant score. In a statement released by his management, he declared:
“I cannot in all conscience continue to support the board and management’s strategy for the future of the company. 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 the 2024-25 season.”
Brabbins’ resignation crescendos into a powerful lament against ACE’s interference. He denounces the proposed changes as a “plan of managed decline,” one that threatens ENO’s artistic soul while leaving musicians’ livelihoods vulnerable. His plea reverberates across international stages:
“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.”
As the curtain falls on Brabbins’ tenure, we await an encore—a path that places exceptional artistry at center stage.