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ENO Music Director Resigns Over Plans to Axe Musicians

Martyn Brabbins has resigned in protest at English National Opera’s plans to axe 19 posts in the orchestra and go part time.

Published: 17 October 2023 | 1:44 PM
Outside of The London Coliseum, home of The English National Opera.
The MU shares its solidarity with all ENO workers affected by cuts to jobs and pay. Image credit: Shutterstock.

Martyn Brabbins stunned the industry after resigning in solidarity with musicians in the orchestra and chorus affected by English National Opera (ENO) plans to axe 19 posts in the orchestra, and employ its remaining musicians on part-time contracts.

In his resignation announcement, Brabbins said: “As music director of ENO for the past seven years, and head of its orchestra, chorus and music staff, I cannot in all conscience continue to support the board and management’s strategy for the future of the company.

“While my feelings on this have been developing for some time, it reached its nadir this week, with the internal announcement of severe cuts to its orchestra and chorus from the 2024/25 season.”

The MU plans to reject the proposals and fight to keep its members at ENO in full time jobs, on full time pay. 

Read the union’s full response to the cuts announcement, which was covered by the Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, Independent, Classic FM and other news outlets across the UK.

Cuts will have a wide impact in ENO and beyond

Brabbins’ statement makes the impact of ENO’s plans clear, saying: “The proposed changes would drive a coach and horses through the artistic integrity of the whole of ENO as a performing company, while also singularly failing to protect our musicians’ livelihoods.”

Our sister union Equity has announced that ENO is planning to reduce the size of the chorus and make them part-time as well.

In a statement on their website, Equity says: “These plans will impede the quality and scale of ENO’s output, which is reliant on a highly specialist workforce. Chorus members were already struggling to maintain their livelihoods on only a 10-month contract and the further reduction down to a six-month contract may force many to leave the opera profession altogether."

The MU shares its solidarity with all ENO workers affected by cuts to jobs and pay.

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