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Martyn Brabbins on English National Opera Plans to Fire and Re-Hire Musicians for Just Six Months a Year

A statement from former Music Director of English National Opera Martyn Brabbins on proposed cuts to the orchestra, music staff and chorus.

Published: 26 January 2024 | 4:42 PM
The London Coliseum Theater in St Martin Lane, London, the current home English National Opera.
"I fully support the orchestral musicians and chorus in making what would, no doubt, have been a heartbreaking decision to go on strike." Image credit: Shutterstock.

When is an opera company not an opera company? When music is no longer at its heart. This is the tragic reality of where English National Opera (ENO) will find itself, should it go ahead with proposed plans to make deep and sweeping cuts to musicians contracts.

My conducting home for seven years, ENO has been a pinnacle of opera creation on the world stage: winning international awards, receiving stellar reviews, and attracting some of the finest talent in the pit, on the stage and behind the scenes.

These are some of the most hard-working, dedicated people you would ever hope to find, working as a team for one shared purpose - to create extraordinary art and bring that to as wide an audience as possible.

To achieve the status of a full-time employed member of an orchestra or opera chorus takes talent, of course, plus a lifetime of dedication to the honing and maintaining the ability to perform great music to the very highest level. Nothing less than perfection is acceptable. The value of this musical skill is beyond measure, and when individuals come together to form an orchestra or chorus, the sum is greater than the brilliant individual parts.

Yet as a result of Arts Council England’s narrow-minded and negligent decision to push ENO out of London, these brilliant musicians face devastation to their livelihoods and untold stress to their families.

ENO was made over 92 years. Generations of musicians, backstage teams and administrative teams, shaped its future, passed on knowledge and built the company up to be the force on the world stage it is today. Arts Council England (ACE) and those negotiating on behalf of ENO must now see their actions risk destroying the one thing they have been charged with protecting.

I fully support the orchestral musicians and chorus in making what would, no doubt, have been a heartbreaking decision to go on strike.

I urge both ENO and ACE decision makers to return to the negotiating tables with the protection of musical and artistic integrity as their number one priority.

The union would like to thank Martyn Brabbins for his solidarity in support of Musicians’ Union members in the orchestra and music staff, and our sister union Equity’s members in the chorus.

Share your solidarity with MU members on strike

It takes a lot of courage to go on strike. And our members at ENO will be the first Musicians' Union members to go on strike in 44 years.

Share your solidarity:

Do you have a ticket for an upcoming performance? Look out for musicians leafleting outside and please let them know they have your full support.

Thanks to everyone who has shared messages of solidarity so far.

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