English National Opera extends strategy for nurturing BAME talent

ENO Orpheus in the Underworld 2019 © Clive Barda

English National Opera (ENO) has announced the next phase of a strategy aimed at making the opera industry ‘more accessible and representative of the society in which we live’.

The opera company will recruit five new string players from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background as part of an ambition to to create specific opportunities for those who are currently under-represented both in London and nationally. Those who are selected for the ENO Orchestra Fellowship for BAME String Players will join the ENO Orchestra from the start of the 2020/21 season on a fixed term contract for 12 months.

The new initiative follows the earlier recruitment of four new Chorus Fellows from a BAME background in 2019. Isabelle Peters, Julia Daramy-Williams, Satriya Krisna and James Liu joined ENO in August 2019 and have already been featured on stage as part of ENO’s 19/20 Season.

Additionally, ENO launched four annual ENO Director Observerships, offering emerging BAME directors the opportunity to work alongside world-renowned opera directors, observing the entire process of directing an opera from start to finish. Paid participants will also be given an insight into the day to day workings of a large national company, from stage management and company office to technical and production. Abdul Shayek, Femi Fagunwa, Ashen Gupta and Annie-Lunnette Deakin-Foster are observing Orpheus in the UnderworldRusalkaCarmen and The Marriage of Figaro respectively. This scheme will continue in to the 2020/21 season.

In the 18/19 season, just 10% of ENO’s audience was BAME. The company aims to increase diversity via its audience development strategy, a big part of which will be ensuring broader representation on stage within productions.

Martyn Brabbins, ENO Music Director, said:

‘Here at ENO we are committed to contributing to the development of a more diverse classical music industry. We strongly believe by introducing the ENO Orchestra Fellowship for BAME String Players we will make an important and much needed difference to the opera industry, and further our belief that opera should be open to everybody.’

John Shortell, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Official, Musicians’ Union said:

‘The MU is delighted that ENO are tackling the issue of diversity in orchestras head on. It’s essential that orchestras reflect our diverse society and positive action initiatives, such as ENO’s, are a vital first step in making orchestras more representative and help level the playing field for BAME musicians. The MU fully supports the initiative and we look forward to seeing the impact ENO’s fantastic work has on the orchestral sector.’

Claire Mera-Nelson, Director of Music for Arts Council England said:

‘The Arts Council welcomes the next step in ENO’s plan to diversify its workforce. More needs to be done to address the significant barriers that Black and minority ethnic musicians face in joining an orchestra and ensuring that it better reflects the society we live in.’

Header photo: ENO Orpheus in the Underworld © Clive Barda

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