English National Opera has reacted to the news that, following negotiations with Arts Council England, it will receive £11.46m of National Lottery funding for the next financial year, starting 1 April 2023. The allocation represents a 9% cut from the ENO’s previous funding.

Back in November, we reported that ENO was set to lose its £12.6 million core annual funding from Arts Council. Instead, there was to be a payment of £17 million spread over a three-year period, to help the company 'develop a new business model'. However, the recent negotiations have meant that the opera company is able to continue with Arts Council funding, albeit at a slightly reduced rate, for one further year.

As and when the initial funding cut becomes reality, it will have a major impact on ENO's activities. The company's former £12.6 million annual allocation represented more than double the box office income earned during the year before COVID. However, ENO has now received the good news that it will continue to receive a substantial annual allocation – for one more year at least.

The opera company has issued a statement in which it welcomed the good news – but also regretted that it could not have come sooner. 'The delay in confirming our financial status has meant that our plans for the season ahead will inevitably have to change,' says the statement. 'This includes the postponement of a number of new productions as well as our current Ring cycle, in partnership with the Met, which was due to continue with a new production of Siegfried next season.

'However, this level of funding will allow us to honour many of the contracts of the hundreds of freelancers we hire every year, and enable us to continue to make incredible opera available for everyone, in English, with hugely subsidised tickets. It will also allow us to continue the award-winning ENO Breathe, available via 85 NHS Trusts, and ‘Finish This’, available in over 200 schools across the country.

'We do remain concerned that this only gives audiences and our workforce one year’s reprieve, and still leaves a huge amount of uncertainty regarding the ENO’s future,' the statement continued. 'For the ENO to meaningfully deliver on the Government’s levelling-up agenda, ACE needs to invest in the organisation at an appropriate level going forward. This has to be done in the context of ACE developing an opera strategy, in conversations with audiences and our colleagues across the industry – something that is still yet to be undertaken by ACE.'

The statement concludes: 'The ENO and our audiences remain in the dark as to why ACE decided to remove our status as a National Portfolio Organisation, despite us meeting or exceeding all the criteria they set: one in seven of our audience are under 35, one in five of our principal performers are ethnically diverse and over 50% of our audience are brand new to opera. We have been bringing opera to people nationally via multiple completely free broadcasts, in innovative ways such as car parks via drive-in opera and over TikTok, as well as in more traditional settings, and over 50% of visitors to opera at the Coliseum are from out of London.

'Our hope is that, as negotiations for investment for future years continue, some clarity will be provided. In the meantime, we want to thank everyone for their continued support during this difficult and worrying time for everyone at the ENO.'

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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.