English National Opera to branch out into musical theatre

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Company plans to create a 'sustainable future'

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English National Opera (ENO) has announced it will be opening its doors to the world of musical theatre.

In a bid to attract new audiences and shore up its financial future, the British company is joining forces with theatrical impresarios Michael Grade and Michael Linnit. Musical theatre productions will be put on in ENO’s London Coliseum home, though details of what will be staged have not yet been revealed.

It is, say Grade and Linnit, ‘an opportunity to embrace the new climate where audiences seem to enjoy the blurring of boundaries between opera, theatre and musicals’. They hope to offer ‘a new look at some of the greatest pieces of musical theatre ever written’.

Although strong box office sales and co-productions have put the company in a profitable position at the end of the 2013-14 financial year, the memory of its £2.2 million loss at the end of 2012 is still felt. And against the backdrop of arts funding cuts – nearly half of ENO's funding comes from Arts Council grants, with £17.9 million due in 2014-15 – the company has had to look at new ways to generate income.

In another new departure for the company, the London Coliseum, which was envisaged as a 'people's palace of entertainment' when it opened in 1904, will be opened to the public during the day. A new coffee shop will be located in the foyer, and the restaurant is going to be redesigned. Plans are also in the pipeline for a new production centre, that will help reduce day-to-day costs.

‘This plan will create a sustainable future for ENO,’ says artistic director John Berry, ‘without compromising on the quality of our work, and will keep us at the forefront of the international opera world.’