Whither Wigglesworth? ENO Director quits

Mark Wigglesworth has resigned as Music Director at the ENO. It’s regrettable, but shouldn’t be a shock. Wiggleworth’s appointment was a surprise, too, when it was first announced in January last year. He was a catch for the ENO since he’s a good conductor, charismatic and, to put it delicately, a personality. a strong person to have around at a time of crisis. I had high hopes. I’m shattered, but not surprised. Wigglesworth isn’t a guy to take crap.

At the time, though, Rupert Christiansen said “the appointment of Wigglesworth will raise eyebrows in the business…….. he comes marked with a chequered track record. Ever since he appeared on the musical scene as a boy wonder and was appointed Associate Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1991 at the tender age of 27, he has been dogged by accusations that he is explosively difficult to work with: the evidence includes the abrupt termination of his relationship with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, as well as a musical directorship of La Monnaie in Brussels which lasted only months. He has never “gone steady” with any other major operatic organisation.” 

For a change Rupert and I  agreed. We’ve both been around a while. At the time I wroteWigglesworth gets very good jobs but doesn’t necessarily conform. Being emollient is part of a conductor’s job description. In fact there are several conductors who are better at pleasing benefactors and corporate interests than at making music….. Maybe Mark Wigglesworth is exactly what the ENO needs: someone who will speak his mind at a time when the ENO is being bullied into becoming bland to please a section of the public who don’t really like opera, music, stagecraft or indeed anything that challenges them……..In the wild game of conductor chess, who knows who will be moving where and when? Whatever happens, the next few years at the ENO are not going to be boring.”

Since the start of the season in September, the ENO has been building up Wigglesworth’s profile because he’s good publicity.  He was an asset and they needed to keep him happy. So his departure will be construed as a major blow against,the ENOBut let’s put this into,perspective.

No doubt some in the media will tut-tut cleverly and find a way to blame the ENO for its own demise. But situations like these are never the fault of any one individual. Basically, we don’t really know for sure who is behind what and why, though I’m pretty sure things are not what they seem. Remember how Martyn Rose slammed John Berry for “being the problem”. Berry’s been gone for ages. But it’s much easier for the media to churn out stale old mantras than to analyze the situation.  The ENO is not facing a  crisis because of any one individual, or group but because its funding has been savagely cut by Arts Council England.  Blaming the Board is a bit pointless when it has no room to manouvre.

A lot of people would have a lot to gain if the ENO were to collapse,  and its assets, such as the Coliseum, were stripped. But that’s myopic. In the long term, the ENO is a vital part of the industry for the whole of Britain, as well as beyond.  When will the media wake up?

Please see my numerous articles on the ENO, on arts policy in this country and more, specifically:

ENO Radical Rethink:
|The ENO Chorus and the Death of 1000 Cuts
The Case for a Concert Hall in London – Wider Perspectives

Original Source: Whither Wigglesworth? ENO Director quits

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