UK: fresh start for the English National Opera

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sun Jun 25 15:22:39 UTC 2006

>>From Guardian Unlimited  Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006
A fresh start for the ENO

David Pountey Sunday June 25, 2006

 Following months of upheaval, ENO last week appointed acting chairman
Vernon Ellis, previously of management consultancy Accenture, as its new
chairman. Former ENO director David Pountey, one of a group of ENO
supporters who in December wrote an open letter objecting to recent
management decisions, gives his verdict.

After the brouhaha over 'shoo-in' appointments, ENO has been meticulous
about the due process of appointing its new chairman, and has none the
less come up with the obvious 'shoo-in' candidate: Vernon Ellis. There is
nothing wrong with this. Ellis has undisputed business experience, and has
amply demonstrated his commitment to the company. The company urgently
needs a longer period of stability in which people look at the
performances rather than the management. Ellis has some work to do.
Recently the board has been guilty of too much interference, or conversely
an inability to rein in an overactive chairman. Ellis must now make sure
that the board fully understands its important but limited non-executive
role: discreet guidance internally, and passionate advocacy externally.

ENO was founded by an idealist, Lilian Baylis, and this sense of vision
must be maintained. The company's English-language policy is critical to
its identity and long-term survival: the potential impact of surtitles is
a really contentious strategic issue. ENO must also be a natural
risk-taker and challenger. This means the right to fail boldly - something
that requires the flair and confidence that cannot be created in
committee. The relatively inexperienced artistic team will need solid
backing to be brave, which requires strong nerves, a lot of trust and a
long-term overview from the board. If we don't hear another story about Mr
Ellis and his board for the next two years, they will have done a
brilliant job.,,329513246-102280,00.html

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