Music director at English National Opera quits over response to budget cuts

Mark Wigglesworth will leave in July, saying the ENO is evolvoing 'into something I do not recognise'

A senior member of staff at the English National Opera has resigned over changes made because of budget cuts at the charity.

Mark Wigglesworth, music director at the ENO, said in his resignation letter that the ENO was evolving "into something I do not recognise" and he had failed to persuade others to maintain "the fundamental pillars of our identity".

Wigglesworth, who will leave at the end of the 2015/16 season in July, made proposals to mitigate the impact of large cuts to the ENO’s grant from Arts Council England.

An ENO spokesman said its board did not accept Wigglesworth’s proposals, which relied on overambitious box-office targets.

The Arts Council said it was making changes because of concerns about the charity’s governance and business model.

Changes put forward by ENO management to deal with the cuts led to the charity’s 44-strong chorus voting for strike action over plans to cut four jobs and introducing new nine-month contracts with a 17.5 per cent pay reduction.

But the ENO came to a settlement last week with the performing arts union Equity, which was representing the chorus, which will result in the nine-month contract being imposed and pay being cut from £40,900 a year to £35,000, rather than the £30,685 proposed by the ENO.

Wigglesworth is the fourth high-profile figure to leave the ENO in the past 15 months, following the former executive director, chair and artistic director out of the door.

A new artistic director will be announced next month, the ENO spokesman said.

In a statement posted on the ENO website , the charity confirmed Wigglesworth’s departure "despite the best efforts of the board and senior management to persuade him to remain".

The statement continued: "We are disappointed that he will not be staying to lead the artistic forces through this particularly challenging period.

"Mark has agreed to complete this season as music director and to return as a guest conductor for two scheduled productions in the 2016/17 season. Mark is a world-class conductor and we look forward to welcoming him back as guest conductor in future years."

Cressida Pollock, chief executive of the ENO, said in a blog post on the ENO website earlier this month that the financial situation meant "there is a very real risk to ENO if we do not make fundamental changes to the company, however upsetting and unpalatable they may be". She said £5m would have to be saved annually for the foreseeable future.

She said that in some cases staff would be asked to work longer hours on less money, some would be moved to seasonal contracts and there would be redundancy "for a few members of staff".

Management pay had already been reduced and would fall by a further 20 per cent, said Pollock, and overheads had already been cut by £700,000.

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