John Berry, Embattled Artistic Director of English National Opera, Resigns
From Development server
10 July 2015

John Berry, Embattled Artistic Director of English National Opera, Resigns

News James Marcus lg 715
John Berry

John Berry, English National Opera’s artistic director, announced today that he intends to vacate his post after nearly two decades with the company.

“My work is now done and ENO is today regarded as one of the most creative forces in opera. The decision feels right to leave at the end of a hugely successful season both from an artistic perspective and in terms of audience numbers,” Berry said in a statement issued today by the company. “After eight seasons leading the company artistically and as the award winning ’14-15 season comes to a close, I am looking forward to spending the summer deciding on my next role. I look forward to remaining involved with ENO in the future, as an audience member and supporter.”

Berry joined English National Opera in 1995 as the company’s casting director, and went on to become its director of opera programming. In 2005, he was named as the company’s artistic director following the abrupt departure of Séan Doran — then CEO and artistic director — who left after just two years on the job

Berry’s resignation comes on the heels of a number of high profile departures and heightened financial tensions at the company. In January, both the chairman of ENO’s board Martyn Rose and the company’s executive director Henriette Götz resigned following what was reported as a period of strained relations with Berry. In an email that was sent in December to ENO's president Vernon Ellis and subsequently leaked to the press, Rose demanded Berry’s resignation and wrote, “For the very survival of ENO, Berry must leave, preferably soon. Let me be clear — John is, in my mind, the problem not the solution, and no meaningful change will ever take place whilst he remains. Time is of the essence. We cannot wait any longer.” 

Additionally, ENO’s already shaky finances have become particularly perilous with the company’s public funding having been cut by nearly one third last year when Arts Council England — the governmental funding body — reduced its annual grants to ENO by nearly £5 million to £12.4 million. Following Rose and Götz’s departure, Arts Council England announced that ENO would not be included as part of its “portfolio” of organizations through 2018, but instead would be placed on a two-year probationary period, during which time it will receive a total £30.5 million as part of a special funding arrangement that will allocate £6.55 million towards transitioning ENO to a sustainable business model while the Arts Council monitors its finances. 

Following Berry’s departure, the company’s artistic planning will proceed in collaboration with the board’s artistic committee overseen by Anthony Whitworth-Jones, who previously served as general director at Garsington Opera, Glyndebourne Opera and Dallas Opera.

“John Berry’s track record for innovative and challenging work is well established and warmly welcomed across the global opera fraternity,” said  Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England, in the stated issued by ENO. “Throughout his time at ENO he has demonstrated a strong commitment to keeping opera at the cutting edge of cultural production in the UK. We wish him all the best for the future. […] We'll continue to work closely with ENO as they develop their business model and plans to bring excellent and exciting work to broader audiences.” spacer 

More information can be found at English National Opera, The Guardian, BBC News, The Telegraph and Reuters. 

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