English National Opera to move north, relocating to new Manchester home by 2029

5 December 2023, 12:05 | Updated: 5 December 2023, 16:11

Curtain call for English National Opera's 'Carmen' production in February 2023
Curtain call for English National Opera's 'Carmen' production in February 2023. Picture: Alamy

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The ENO has announced its new home, ending a year of uncertainty after being instructed by Arts Council England to move out of London.

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The English National Opera, the leading opera company currently based in London’s West End, is to move its headquarters 200 miles north, to Greater Manchester.

Its move to Manchester, currently the biggest city in Europe without a resident opera company, marks the end of a year-long decision process for the company, whose Arts Council funding was slashed in November 2022.

The northern city was the favourite in a shortlist which included Birmingham and Bristol.

The ENO says it will be “firmly established” in Greater Manchester by March 2029, but the company will stage productions across the region before that date.

It will also continue an annual season up to and after 2029 at the London Coliseum, its current home which it owns.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, described ENO as “one of the most exciting cultural institutions in the country” and said the county is “immensely proud to bring them a new home”.

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“We’ve worked closely with them to set out a shared vision for a future in our city-region, where they can continue making groundbreaking opera, foster new collaborations with artists across the North, and bring their award-winning learning and wellbeing programmes to communities here,” Burnham said.

“Greater Manchester’s world-renowned history of radical art, activism, and affecting change, and the cultural renaissance taking place across our towns and cities, makes it the ideal home for the ENO. We can’t wait to welcome them and see where this new partnership takes us.”

The ENO had its funding slashed in November 2022, after Arts Council England (ACE) was instructed by the government to redistribute money from the capital to other UK cities.

Its annual funding of £12.6 million was replaced with a one-off £17 million package on the condition it move to a different city – a controversial decision, that saw protests, defiant curtain calls and support for the ENO from several high-profile musicians.

ACE agreed to a revised plan, giving ENO until 2029 to complete the move to a new city with a budget of £24 million over two years, from 2024.

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The English National Opera is to move its headquarters to Greater Manchester
The English National Opera is to move its headquarters to Greater Manchester. Picture: Getty

Jenny Mollica, interim chief executive, said the ENO’s future is “bright” and its move to Greater Manchester marks “an important and defining moment for our remarkable company”.

Mollica added that during discussions, the company had become “struck by an emerging vision for the future of ENO [in Greater Manchester], defined by a shared ambition to open up new possibilities for opera in people’s lives”.

Opera North, the company based in Leeds, said: “We look forward to working with ENO to build the future of opera and classical music, sharing innovative operatic experiences with audiences here in the North.”