After cuts to its Arts Council funding forced it to look at moving its headquarters out of London, the English National Opera (ENO) has shortlisted five cities for its new home.


The opera company has been told by Arts Council England to relocate from the capital or lose its public funding. It has now whittled down its list of future homes to Birmingham, Bristol, Greater Manchester, Liverpool and Nottingham.

'All the cities have brilliant stuff going for them,' the ENO chief executive Stuart Murphy told the BBC. 'But there'll be different versions of the ENO depending on which city we go to.'

The ENO was forced to start planning a relocation back in November, when the opera company was told to move its HQ from London after the Arts Council was instructed by the government to spread more money beyond the capital.

The Arts Council's original suggestion for a new home was Manchester, which is currently the biggest city in Europe without a resident opera company.

The ENO is performing in another shortlisted city, Liverpool, on Tuesday 9 May, as this year's Eurovision Song Contest gets underway in the city. It will be performing an operatic take on Eurovision classics before Eurovision 2023's first semi-final.

'Our performance on Tuesday is the start of us testing different things over the next few years,' Murphy said. 'Each city allows us to do a different version of the ENO. So what people will see on Tuesday at Eurovision is a version of the ENO that is doing something really mad and bonkers in front of 15,000 people.'

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The company will narrow down the shortlist to three cities by the end of this month before making a final decision by the end of the year. And, as Murphy explains, the decision hangs on a variety of factors.

'We haven't said it all depends on who will put in the most money, or which is the biggest catchment area for population, or the youngest area. It's a whole combination of stuff.

'It's how excited the city is about us going there; what opportunities there are for partnerships; what things organically happen, like Eurovision; and, if there's already an opera company there, like Birmingham Opera, how can we partner with them."

The Arts Council has said that the ENO must move out of London in order to continue to receive funding. However, it does expect the company to continue staging shows at the London Coliseum, its current home in the capital.

The Arts Council's original plan was to halve the ENO's grant to £17m over the next three years. Subsequently, however, the UK arts funding body adjusted that sum to £35.5m for the next three years.

Stuart Murphy also predicted that wider arts cuts would have a 'cataclysmic effects for the classical music world'. Other companies and arts bodies including Glyndebourne and Welsh National Opera have also suffered major cuts. Then came news of a 20% reduction in salaried posts across all three English BBC orchestras, although the BBC has since committed to looking at an alternative to these particular cuts.


Pic: Robbie Jack/Corbis via Getty Images


Steve Wright
Steve WrightMulti-Platform Content Producer, BBC Music Magazine

Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.