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The fury of the opera singer Danielle de Niese by the cuts

The singer was speaking after the English National Opera’s £12.6m annual grant from the Arts Council of England was cut. She rejected claims that large-scale opera was not proving popular enough, saying: “Do we need to sell as many tickets as the O2 to be recognised?

“Is the Arts Council saying you’re on the chopping block if you don’t?”

The 43-year-old actor is headlining major London productions of La Boheme, It’s A Wonderful Life and Handel’s Messiah this winter at the Royal Opera House, Coliseum and Theater Royal.

Last week he joined ENO CEO Stuart Murphy, star Lesley Garrett and other supporters, including Melvyn Bragg, in the House of Commons to speak on the crisis. She said: “We were there to encourage MPs to ask the Arts Council tougher questions. We don’t want the government to feel like, ‘Yes, yes, there will be protests, but eventually, everyone will calm down and move on.’

“We want parliamentarians to make an urgent appeal to reconsider or find another solution, or buy some time to find one.

“We need the government to recognize the value of opera. You can’t just go deeper into each level until all you have left is a reality show. We need fantastic cultural experiences. The ENO is one of the central hearts of London.

Arts Council England director of music Claire Mera-Nelson justified the cuts by saying there was “almost no growth” in public demand for traditionally performed large-scale opera.

But Danielle said: “Should we declare war on everything that isn’t conventional enough? Do we cut off the blood that feeds our souls and nourishes society simply because it is not loved by all?

“Do all people love Strictly Come Dancing or Antiques Roadshow? You can’t say that at all. So why is it a prerequisite for financing the opera? I do not agree with that. ENO has been offered £17m of investment over three years, on the condition that the company leaves its London base after 90 years.

Arts Council England said this was part of its intention to “level up” funding outside of London. But Danielle fears that “all that lovely young talent” will go abroad.

“It’s like cutting off your nose to annoy your face,” he said. “He’s saying, ‘Let’s support more talent across the UK region,’ but he’s also saying, ‘We’ll cut off the blood supply to the organizations that provide their training ground.'”

ENO said: “We were shocked by ACE’s announcement that they would remove our funding and ask us to move out of London, offering only around half our usual budget to do so.

“Not only is this putting hundreds of highly-skilled jobs at risk, but it sends the message that they don’t believe any place outside of London deserves full funding. It also completely ignores our work to make opera accessible, which we’ve been doing for almost 100 years.

“That is why we are fighting this funding cut. The work we do matters. Opera is not for the elite, it is for everyone, and we are determined to continue sharing it with everyone in the UK.”

  • ENO’s new production of It’s A Wonderful Life is at The Coliseum through Saturday (Eno.org)



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