The appointment of Daniel Kramer as new artistic director of English National Opera continues an American trend which has dominated recent casting at the company. Best known as a director of opera, dance and theatre, he has gained a profile at ENO on relatively little work either there or elsewhere. But considering the severe financial constraints on the company, it may well be that a leader with flair, personality and determination – perhaps chutzpah – will be able to achieve more in re-establishing ENO where it should be than somebody with more practical experience.
Kramer also appears to have limited hands-on administrative experience: he was Associate Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre, Notting Hill, Creative Associate at the Royal Shakespeare Company and Associate at the Young Vic. In the UK we do not possess junior theatre or opera companies where a cadre of talented youngsters are stacked, awaiting promotion to leadership of our comparatively few performing arts organisations. So this is in a sense a bid for a certain kind of “international” status and recognisability, using a figure who has certainly achieved a degree of bankable success in the relevant areas.
Kramer is directing the new Tristan and Isolde which is about to open at the Coliseum in June. The next two seasons are being planned by the existing team left behind by the departure of John Berry. Cressida Pollock as administrative director is well supported by the existing Board, but somewhat exposed to criticism for her lack of theatre or opera experience without the protection of an artistic director in place. And the need to search for a music director is also now pressing with the resignation of Mark Wigglesworth – presumably ENO will be looking for someone with considerable experience on the UK opera scene to help the comparatively inexperienced Kramer in planning future seasons.
So congratulations are in order for Mr Kramer and best wishes. He will need luck as well as good judgment to succeed in the role. But he will have a long run-in period before he is obliged to start showing what he is actually made of as an artistic boss.
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