Rumors are flying around the West End — and Fleet Street, including a report in The Times recently — suggesting that the English National Opera may have contingency plans to shut the Coliseum down for 16 months, in tandem with major redundancies, in a cost-cutting measure.
This seems unlikely as not only is January 2004 the target date for celebration of the centenary of the Coliseum's opening in 1904, but it will also mark the end of the very substantial restoration process that has been carried out in order to mark that centenary.
Given that ENO is a subsidized company, which has had its building bought for it by the nation, closure for over a year in order to save cash is unlikely to be allowed — the public subsidy is for the performance of opera and the running of a company. If opera isn't performed and the company is in effect closed, then, presumably, a pro rata repayment of funds is required.
The Coliseum is one of London's most-loved theatres, inspiring a very personal affection among regular opera (and ballet) goers. Nicholas Payne, ENO's director, may have been persuaded to leave by the Board, with only a letter of protest from his supporters to the Times, but the Board will find the Coliseum has much wider support and is harder to shut down.
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow