English National Opera Reveals Plans to Produce Musicals; Mike Leigh Confirmed to Direct The Pirates of Penzance

By Mark Shenton
29 Apr 2014

English National Opera, the U.K. opera company headquartered at the London Coliseum, has announced plans for the 2014-15 season that include a new production of The Pirates of Penzance to be directed by film and stage director Mike Leigh in his opera house debut, as well as new partnerships that will see the company working on musical theatre productions and with Bristol Old Vic.



In a press statement, John Berry, artistic director of the company, commented, "Our wider initiatives are designed to foster close commercial partnerships, produce more work more efficiently, and attract new audiences – all deliverable at a lower cost to the public purse. This plan will create a sustainable future for ENO, without compromising on the quality of our work, and will keep us at the forefront of the international opera world."

According to press materials, one of those initiatives is a new, long-term partnership with theatrical impresarios Michael Grade and Michael Linnit, through which world-class musical theatre will be produced and staged by ENO. This partnership will harness the world-class producing and technical teams at ENO and the commercial experience of Grade and Linnit. The aim is to attract even broader audiences to the London Coliseum – which has a long history of staging great musical entertainment – and help to develop audiences for both opera and music theatre. Details of the first productions from this new partnership are still to be announced.

Grade and Linnit commented, "We are delighted with this unique and exciting partnership, which creates an opportunity to embrace the new climate where audiences seem to enjoy the blurring of boundaries between opera, theatre and musicals and clearly they love a first class show. Bringing the considerable creative flair of ENO to bear on modern musicals will bring new audiences to the Coliseum, new revenues to ENO, and a new look at some of the greatest pieces of musical theatre ever written."

In the past, ENO has staged productions of musicals that have included Pacific Overtures, On the Town and Kismet.

Amongst 11 new productions being staged in the 2014-15 season follow: Mike Leigh will direct Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, and director Peter Sellars returns to the company as Director-in-Residence, to direct the world stage premiere of John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary and the U.K.’s first fully staged production of Purcell’s The Indian Queen. Also, Shakespeare’s 450th anniversary will be celebrated with a new production of Otello, featuring Stuart Skelton in the title role, under the direction of David Alden.

Outside London, ENO and Bristol Old Vic begin a new partnership, with the Old Vic's artistic director Tom Morris presenting Monteverdi’s Orfeo. 

For further details on English National Opera, visit www.eno.org.