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English National Opera Season 2021 – 2022

English National Opera has just announced its plans for the season starting in October 2021.

ENO 2021-22 HMS Pinafore (c) Simon Webb.
ENO 2021-22 HMS Pinafore (c) Simon Webb.

There will be only 67 performances. Of the seven works to be given, four productions will be new to the London Coliseum and three will be revivals, one of the attendees at the press launch pointing out that this works out at an Arts Council subsidy of £184,000 per performance! However, those under twenty-one will benefit by having access to ‘free’ seats to every performance and ticket prices have been pegged so that the lowest price is still £10, making attending opera accessible to all. In addition, even though all productions will, as usual, be sung in English, there will also be surtitles, essential in the vastness of the London Coliseum!

The first new production will be Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H M S Pinafore”, the first time that this has been staged by ENO. It ‘stars’ comedian Les Dennis as Sir Joseph Porter, and Annilese Miskimmon, the Artistic Director of the company, assures us that, at his audition, all were amazed at how well he could sing! The director is Cal McCrystal, who directed Iolanthe a few seasons ago: people either loved it or hated it (I loathed it!), as he added about 40 minutes to the playing time and included some questionable ‘jokes’, but it was very popular with audiences and put ‘bums on seats’ as they say!

Pinafore is followed by Wagner’s “The Valkyrie” directed by Richard Jones and conducted by ENO’s director of music, Martyn Brabbins, the cast including Nicky Spence as Siegmund.

Perhaps the most interesting new production is “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Poul Ruders, based on the novel by Margaret Attwood, a staging first seen in Denmark and directed by Annilese Miskimmon.

Martyn Brabbins conducts two operas in the new season, the second being Janacek’s “The Cunning Little Vixen”, which, like the operas already mentioned, intends using British or British trained singers as much as possible, including those who have taken part in the Harewood Artists scheme. It is heartening to see this policy restored after some years.

Revivals include Jonathan Miller’s excellent but ageing production of Puccini’s “La Boheme”, Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte” and Glass’ “Satyagraha”.

Stuart Murphy, ENO’s chief executive, said that the company was keen to build on its work during Covid, which has included a ‘drive-in’ production of La Boheme, Mozart’s “Requiem” and a severely abridged “Messiah”, each of which was seen on television by many people, some of whom might now be persuaded to attend ‘live’ opera. More Live streams were promised, including, hopefully, Puccini’s “Tosca” at Crystal Palace in August.

By John Groves

Listings information: ENO performances at the London Coliseum

Philip Glass − Satyagraha
Vocal Text by Constance de Jong (adapted from the ‘Bhagavad Gita’)
Book by Philip Glass and Constance De Jong
14 October − 28 October 2021
Oct 14, 16, 20, 23, 27, 28 at 19.00 Oct 17 at 15.00
Seven performances

Conductor: Carolyn Kuan, Director: Phelim McDermott, Revival Director: Peter Relton, Set Designer/Associate Director: Julian Crouch, Costume Designer: Kevin Pollard, Lighting Designer: Paule Constable, Revival Lighting Designer: Kevin Sleep, Video Designer: Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer, Revival Movement Director and puppetry: Rob Thirtle.

Cast includes: Sean Panikkar (M.K. Gandhi), Musa Ngqungwana (Lord Krishna), William Thomas (Parsi Rustomji), Felicity Buckland (Kasturbai), James Cleverton (Mr Kallenbach), Sarah Pring (Mrs Alexander), Ross Ramgobin (Prince Arjuna), Gabriella Cassidy (Miss Schlesen).

Co-produced with the Metropolitan Opera, New York. In collaboration with Improbable.

Arthur Sullivan – HMS Pinafore
Libretto by W.S. Gilbert
New production
29 October − 11 December 2021
Oct 29 at 19.00 Oct 30, Nov 6, 12, 17, 18, 27, 30 & Dec 3, 6, 9, 11 at 19.30 Oct 30 & Nov 6, 7, 14, 27 at 15.00 Nov 20 at 14.00
Signed performance: Nov 17 at 19.30
Relaxed performance: Dec 3 at 13.30
19 performances

Conductor: Chris Hopkins, Director: Cal McCrystal, Set Designer/Costume Designer: takis, Lighting Designer: Tim Mitchell, Choreographer: Lizzi Gee.

Cast includes: Les Dennis (Sir Joseph), John Savournin (Captain Corcoran), Elgan Llŷr Thomas (Ralph Rackstraw), Henry Waddington (Dick Deadeye), Marcus Farnsworth (Boatswain), Alexandra Oomens (Josephine), Bethan Langford (Hebe), Hilary Summers (Buttercup).

Richard Wagner – The Valkyrie
Libretto by Richard Wagner
New production
19 November − 10 December 2021
Nov 19, 22, 25 & Dec 1, 7, 10 at 17.00
Nov 28 & Dec 4 at 14.30
Eight performances

Conductor: Martyn Brabbins/Anthony Negus (7 Dec), Director: Richard Jones, Set Designer/Costume Designer: Stewart Laing, Lighting Designer: Adam Silverman, Video Designer: Akhila Krishnan, Movement Director: Sarah Fahie, Translator: John Deathridge.

Cast includes: Matthew Rose (Wotan), Rachel Nicholls (Brünnhilde), Nicky Spence (Siegmund), Emma Bell (Sieglinde), Brindley Sherratt (Hunding), Susan Bickley (Fricka), Claire Barnett-Jones (Rossweisse), Fleur Barron (Schwertleite), Nadine Benjamin (Gerhilde), Jennifer Davis (Helmwige), Sarah-Jane Lewis (Waltraute), Idunnu Münch (Siegrune), Katie Stevenson (Grimgerde), Mari Wyn Williams (Ortlinde).

Co-produced with the Metropolitan Opera, New York.

Giacomo Puccini − La bohème
Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
31 January − 27 February 2022
Jan 31 & Feb 2, 4, 10, 12, 19, 23, 25, 27 at 19.30
Feb 5, 12, 19, 27 at 14.30
13 performances

Conductor: Ben Glassberg, Director: Jonathan Miller, Revival Director: Crispin Lord, Set and Costume Designer: Isabella Bywater, Lighting Designer: Jean Kalman. Revival Lighting Designer: Kevin Sleep, Translator: Amanda Holden

Cast includes: Sinéad Campell-Wallace/Nadine Benjamin (Matinees 12, 18, 27 Feb) (Mimì), David Junghoon Kim (Rodolfo), Charles Rice (Marcello), Louise Alder (Musetta), William Thomas (Colline), Benson Wilson/Alex Otterburn (Schaunard), Simon Butteriss (Benoît/Alcindoro).

A co-production with Cincinnati Opera.

Leoš Janáček − The Cunning Little Vixen
Libretto by Leoš Janáček
New production
18 February −1 March 2022
Feb 18, 22, 24, 26 & Mar 1 at 19.30
Feb 20 at 15.00
Relaxed performance: Feb 26 at 14.30
Seven performances

Conductor: Martyn Brabbins, Director: Jamie Manton, Set Designer/Costume Designer: Tom Scutt, Lighting Designer: Lucy Carter, Movement Director: Jenny Ogilvie, Translator: Robert T. Jones & Yveta Synek Graff.

Cast includes: Sally Matthews (Vixen), Pumeza Matshikiza (Fox), Madeleine Shaw (Forester’s Wife/Owl), Alan Oke (Schoolmaster/Owl), Lester Lynch (Forester), Claire Barnett-Jones (Dog), Clive Bayley (Priest (Parson)/Badger), John Findon (Innkeeper (Pásek)/Cock), Sarah-Jane Lewis (Innkeeper’s Wife/Hen), Alexandra Oomens (Pepík/Woodpecker), Ffion Edwards (Frantík/Jay).

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart − Così fan tutte
Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte

10 − 22 March 2022
Mar 10, 14, 16, 18, 22 at 19.00
Mar 12 at 18.00
Mar 20 at 15.00
Signed performance: Mar 16 at 19.00
Seven performances

Conductor: Kerem Hasan, Director: Phelim McDermott, Set Designer: Tom Pye, Costume Designer: Laura Hopkins, Lighting Designer: Paule Constable, Revival Lighting Designer: Kevin Sleep. Translator: Jeremy Sams.

Cast includes: Nardus Williams (Fiordiligi), Hanna Hipp (Dorabella), Amitai Pati (Ferrando), Benson Wilson (Guglielmo), Soraya Mafi (Despina), Neal Davies (Don Alfonso).

Co-produced with the Metropolitan Opera, New York. In collaboration with Improbable.

Poul Ruders − The Handmaid’s Tale
Libretto by Paul Bentley (based on the novel by Margaret Atwood)
New production
4 − 14 April 2022
Apr 4, 6, 8, 12, 14 at 19.30
Apr 10 at 15.00
Six performances

Conductor: Joana Carneiro, Director: Annilese Miskimmon, Set Designer/Costume Designer: Annemarie Woods, Lighting Designer: Paule Constable, Video Designer: Akhila Krishnan, Movement Director: Imogen Knight.

Cast includes: Kate Lindsey (Offred), John Findon (Luke), Susan Bickley (Offred’s Mother), Emma Bell (Aunt Lydia), Pumeza Matshikiza (Moira), Rhian Lois (Janine/Offwaren), Raehann Bryce-Davis (Serena Joy), Madeleine Shaw (Rita), Solomon Howard (The Commander), Frederick Ballentine (Nick), Elin Pritchard (Ofglen), Alan Oke (The Doctor).



  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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