ENO recruits diction coaches for new opera season
If you've ever struggled to hear every word being sung at an opera, things may be about to improve.
The English National Opera is to bring in diction coaches to ensure its productions are loud and clear.
Speaking at the launch of the ENO's 2017/18 season, artistic director Daniel Kramer said: "We want to make sure that when we do sing in English it is as comprehensible as possible."
Coaches are currently being recruited to work with the cast on each show.
'Mumbled' speech on TV
"It's a huge space in there," said the ENO's new music director Martyn Brabbins of the company's 2,359-seat home at the London Coliseum.
"Some singers are more predisposed to do it than others... some singers find it more challenging. It's a difficult thing. But tell me where you hear every word in any opera."
The ENO's move comes after recent debate about "mumbled" speech in TV shows, such as the BBC drama SS-GB. Earlier this month, the issue was discussed in the House of Lords.
The new ENO season features four new productions and five revivals at the London Coliseum.
It will open with a new production of Verdi's Aida, directed by Phelim McDermott, whose Akhnaten won an Olivier award earlier this month.
Verdi's La Traviata will end the season, with Kramer directing Irish soprano Claudia Boyle in the role of "fallen woman" Violetta.
The ENO has been through turbulent times in recent years.
In February 2015, the Arts Council of England cut its core funding by £5m and placed the company under "special funding arrangements".
Two months later, the ENO announced it was cutting ticket prices in an attempt to secure its financial future.
Artistic director John Berry quit the following July after 10 years in the post.
In February 2016 the ENO chorus was set to strike over a pay dispute which was later resolved. A month later music director Mark Wigglesworth resigned after less than a year in the job.
At Thursday's season announcement, CEO Cressida Pollock said the company was "more financially stable than we have been in over a decade".
She said ticket price cuts in the balcony and upper circle had boosted audiences, and would be extended to the dress circle this year.
Kramer added that a new funding model - in which the London Coliseum is rented out to commercial musical productions such as Carousel and Bat Out of Hell - helped finance his opera programme.
"Bat Out of Hell is buying me a world premiere," he said. "That's how I look at it on paper."
Looking further ahead to the end of 2018, ENO will mark the the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I with Benjamin Britten's War Requiem.
In 2019 it will team up with Opera North for the world premiere of Iain Bell's Jack the Ripper, which Kramer said would "look at the myth from the female perspective".
With Rupert Charlesworth in the title role, the central female roles will sung by Josephine Barstow, Lesley Garrett, Susan Bullock, Janis Kelly and Marie McLaughlin.
Other 2017/18 season highlights:
- Marnie - the world premiere of Nico Muhly's latest opera based on novelist Winston Graham's psychological thriller, which was also made into a 1964 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock
- Iolanthe - Gilbert and Sullivan's fantasy political satire directed by Cal McCrystal, who was responsible for the slapstick sequences in the National Theatre's comedy hit One Man, Two Guvnors
- The Turn of the Screw - Benjamin Britten's spine-chilling chamber opera, based on the Henry James novella, in a co-production with Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
- More revivals, including Jonathan Miller's The Barber of Seville, Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Fiona Shaw's The Marriage of Figaro