The search for a new music director began in January, following the ousting of previous music director designate Oleg Caetani, whose contract was cancelled in December, one month before he was to take up the post. The search committee was chaired by BBC executive Nicholas Kenyon, an ENO board member.
The ENO has been plagued recently by a succession of financial and administrative problems: it lost its chairman, chief executive, and music director over the past three months; it's been given two government handouts since 1998; and staff recently threatened to strike over pay and pension benefits.
Artistic director John Berry said, "Edward's qualities as a musician and his natural rapport with both singers and creative teams make his appointment a major coup for ENO. His debut with Cosi fan tutte last season further confirmed his standing as one of the leading British conductors."
Chief executive Loretta Tomasi added, "We are delighted that Edward is making this long-term commitment to ENO. He is a natural collaborator and all the company is really looking forward to working with him."
The British-born Gardner has been music director of Glyndebourne on Tour since 2003. He is currently making his debut at the Royal Opera Linbury Studio with Mozart's Il re pastore, and makes his debut in the main Glyndebourne Festival season this year conducting Fidelio.
Gardner has conducted major UK orchestras including the Hall_, the BBC Symphony, the Philharmonia, the City of Birmingham Symphony and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Internationally, he has recently conducted the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Symphony, and Camerata Salzburg; upcoming performances include the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
The ENO was founded 75 years ago with the aim of attracting a broad audience. Currently on stage at the London Coliseum are ENO's productions of Vaughan Williams Sir John In Love and Verdi's Rigoletto. La Belle H_lne opens April 3.