1. Drop the rigid English-language dogma. Create a repertory of productions for which there is perennial audience demand, e.g. Carmen, La Bohème, Traviata and The Ring, in the original language with surtitles.
2. Cherish the English opera repertoire – set the global standard for performances of Britten, Purcell, Adams, Gershwin, Glass and G & S.
3. Be the world’s greatest advocate for operas by composers of today. Identify and nurture composers to create operas of artistic excellence able to fill the House.
4. ENO must be led by an artistic leader: this person should be the music director, who is also the artistic director, taking responsibility for ENO directly in front of the audience, conducting the majority of performances. He or she must have an absolute vision for the House, have full power to implement it, and be a constant presence. He or she must command the complete trust of the orchestra, chorus and backstage staff, and have their endorsement to lead. The artistic leader should be accountable directly to the Secretary for State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as the taxpayer’s representative, without Arts Council involvement.
5. Stage a performance every day, expect Christmas and essential technical and dress rehearsals. Ensure the House is full by any means necessary. Empty seats are an insult to taxpayer subsidy. Rent other space in the Coliseum commercially when not being used, including rehearsal rooms – extract maximum value out of this great theatre.
6. No ‘-isms’ or other superfluous staging fads imposed on operas – instead, insist on thoughtful, score-based productions with great acting and suitable design. This does not mean constant conservatism or unimaginative literalism, but does mean respecting the artistic integrity of operas. Audiences do not pay to be patronised, lectured to, or to endure self-conscious originality for its own sake. Nobody much cares about a stage director’s political opinions. Leave the lavatories off-stage in the place they belong. ENO has lost the trust of too many potential audience members: people who may risk a dodgy production for £20 will not do so for £90.
7. Give artistic personnel fair salaries while expecting flexible and innovative working. Treat staff as partners, creating the potential for higher pay if extra income is generated. Develop and promote ENO Chorus to achieve popular acclaim nationally, including on television and independent performances; actively seek film and session work. Co-ordinate with the Royal Opera House and share people collaboratively, for example when ROH does Boris Godunov or Die Meistersinger, lend ENO Chorus to double the numbers; programme a chorus-free opera ENO on the same night – and vice versa.
James Ross is a professional conductor and Managing Director of Ulysses Arts.