Music director Mark Wigglesworth to quit troubled ENO

The English National Opera (ENO) music director is to step down after reportedly claiming he could no longer "recognise" the company.

The ENO said it was "disappointed" that Mark Wigglesworth was leaving his post at the end of the 2015/16 season during a "particularly challenging period".

The announcement comes after a period of turmoil for the company, which has had its Arts Council funding slashed in recent years.

Planned industrial action by the ENO chorus was called off on Friday after the Equity union said the singers had "reluctantly" agreed to a cut in their guaranteed pay package.

In a statement, the ENO said: "We regret to confirm that Mark Wigglesworth feels unable to continue as music director despite the best efforts of the board and senior management to persuade him to remain.

"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 including conducting Jenufa 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."

In an email to colleagues announcing his decision to quit, which was published by several media outlets, Mr Wigglesworth said: "The company is evolving now into something I do not recognise, and as hard as I have tried to argue to maintain what I believe to be the fundamental pillars of our identity, I have failed to persuade others of this necessity.

"I believe in efficiencies that increase our value for money and do not lose the opportunity of performing the highest quality opera to the largest number of people. 

"The plan for the future is one that the board and chief executive have always known I cannot support."

Mr Wigglesworth, 51, was named music director of the ENO in January 2014, succeeding Edward Gardner. He was previously associate conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and principal conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

The Arts Council removed the ENO from the national portfolio of arts organisations in February 2015, with its annual funding cut by £5 million a year.

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