English Touring Opera

English Touring Opera (ETO) is an opera company in the United Kingdom founded in 1979 under the name Opera 80 by the then-existing Arts Council of Great Britain. In 1992 the company changed to its present name. Today it is sponsored in part by Arts Council England [1] as well as receiving support from individual and corporate sponsors, plus trusts and foundations. The company aims to bring high quality opera to areas of England that would not otherwise have ready access to such productions. Since 2002, its General Director (and acclaimed stage director of several productions) [2] has been James Conway, who came from the Opera Theatre of Ireland. Its Music Director, also since 2002, is Michael Rosewell.[3]

The company

Opera 80 itself became the successor to Opera For All,[4] an "umbrella organization" which had planned tours by small groups which performed to piano accompaniment.[5] David Parry became music director in 1983.[5]

ETO is a charitable organisation which seeks to stimulate access, understanding and appreciation of opera. The company has always presented operas in English and it currently tours twice each year to more venues than any other opera company in the UK, going to about 33 theatres, many of which would not normally host opera performances.[3] These include London, Cambridge, Exeter, Poole, Cheltenham, Malvern, Crawley, Sheffield, Wolverhampton, Buxton, Durham and Perth. It is estimated that the Spring 2012 tour included "nearly 50 gigs".[5]

As James Conway notes:

"One of the great new challenges is to show audiences that what we offer is different from the essentially passive experience of cinema relays – to point out how the actual live experience of listening and looking is incomparably better".[6]

In Britain's economic climate of 2012, Arts Council England grants have increased by about 50% since 2002[5] and "English Touring Opera....will receive £1,577,015 in 2012/13, rising to £1,819,244 in 2014/15. This is expected to allow the company to sustain its current level of touring over the coming year, then to increase its programme of activity from 2012 onwards."[7]



Singers whose early careers began with ETO often return to perform again with the company after their careers have developed further.

Singers who have performed with ETO include Sarah Connolly, Mary Plazas, Sylvia O'Brien, Todd Wilander, Jonathan Veira, Paul Nilon, Alison Hagley and Susan Gritton. Amanda Echalaz has starred in the recent productions of Così fan tutte, Alcina, Eugene Onegin and Jenůfa.

ETO's and Opera 80's conductors have included Nicholas Kraemer, Ivor Bolton, Stephen Barlow, Martin André and David Parry. The current Music Director is Michael Rosewell. It has also shown the early work of such directors as Richard Jones, Robert Carsen, Declan Donnellan and Steven Pimlott.

Productions of works outside the standard repertory

Forthcoming productions will include:[14]


In addition to theatre-staged operatic productions, ETO focuses on relationships with communities through education and outreach programs, and organises projects for people of all ages and abilities – from on-stage workshops to residencies in schools and performances for children with special needs. Singers and musicians on tour with the ETO often step off-stage and into the classroom of outreach workshops alongside professional animateurs.

Tim Yealland is the current Artistic Associate for Education and overseas outreach and education programs.

One of ETO's outreach programs is Creative Residencies, in which young people with disabilities engage in week-long creative workshops. Between 2007 and 2009, these projects have included:

  • House on the Moon (2007) involved a collaboration with local Wolverhampton organisations. Nearly 200 people including amateurs and professionals from every background and of every ability performed.
  • Turtle Song was presented in 2008. It was a collaboration with Turtle Key Arts and the Royal College of Music which encourages people with Alzheimer's Disease or dementia to compose and sing their own songs, working alongside professional musicians.
  • One Day, Two Dawns was an opera in 2009 for the Truro, Cornwall community, where a 200-member cast of local people aged 8–80 devised and rehearsed a new piece of music.
  • Jack and the Banstalk / Red Ridinghood (also 2009) was an interactive fairytale opera with pre-school students composed by Tom Smail.


In 2004 James Conway's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream was nominated for a Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) "Best Opera" Award.

James Conway's production of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda was nominated for a South Bank Show Award in 2005.

ETO's projects Ice and Crossing the Styx were both nominated for an RPS Award in the Education Category in 2006.[16] Ice was a devised opera for teenagers, and Crossing the Styx was a devised opera for primary school students.

House on the Moon with the Wolverhampton Community Opera was nominated for an RPS Best Education Project award of 2007.

In 2010 One Day, Two Dawns with Hall for Cornwall won the RPS Education Award.

Laika the Spacedog, a new opera for children aged 7 to 11, was awarded the "David Bedford Music Education Award" in 2012. It honours outstanding music education projects, and was given by The PRS For Music Foundation.[17] Laika the Spacedog also won two awards for Best Production at the Armel International Opera Festival in Szeged, Hungary in 2013. The Best Production award as voted for by the members of the International Competition Jury, and Best Production from the Jury of the University of Szeged.[18]

In the Spring of 2014, ETO was the winner of an Olivier Award in the "Outstanding Achievement in Opera" category];[19][20] on the Olivier Awards website, it is noted that the company won the Award for "its brave and challenging touring productions....of Michael Tippett's elegant and vibrant King Priam and Britten's rarely performed operetta Paul Bunyan. The stylishly staged pair played at the Royal Opera House's Linbury Studio Theatre in Covent Garden, London, as part of a UK tour."[19]



  1. ETO page on artscouncil.org.uk Archived 9 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  2. Tim Ashley, "The Emperor of Atlantis – review", The Guardian (London), 9 October 2012
  3. About ETO at englishtouringopera.org.uk
  4. "Opera 80", The New Grove Dictionary of Opera", at Oxfordmusiconline.com
  5. Thicknesse, pp. 71–72
  6. Conway quoted in Thicknesse, p. 71
  7. "Opera Now: Latest News" online at rhinegold.co.uk/magazines/opera_now Archived 11 October 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  8. "ETO announces casting for 30th anniversary tour in Spring 2009" at www.musicalcriticism.com
  9. Rupert Christiansen, "Albert Herring, English Touring Opera/Linbury Studio Theatre, review", The Telegraph (London). 8 October 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2012
  10. Rupert Christiansen, "The Lighthouse, The Emperor of Atlantis, ETO, touring, review", The Telegraph (London), 12 October 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  11. Richard Fairman, "King Priam, Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London – review", Financial Times (London), 18 February 2014
  12. Rupert Christiansen, "Paul Bunyan by Benjamin Britten, English Touring Opera, review", The Telegraph (London), 21 February 2014
  13. Donizetti Society "Future Events" page. Retrieved 13 June 2014
  14. ETO's list of past and future productions on englishtouringopera.org.uk
  15. Patience. Retrieved 10 December 2016
  16. Charity Commission PDF
  17. Description of the ETO winning project Archived 8 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  18. "The Winners of Armel Opera Competition and Festival 2013" Archived 6 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine on armelfestival.org. Retrieved 5 January 2014
  19. "Outstanding Achievement in Opera Award 2014" Archived 14 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine on olivierawards.com. Retrieved 13 June 2014
  20. "ETO Wins Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement" on englishtouringopera.org.uk. Retrieved 13 June 2014


  • Thicknesse, Robert, "Company Profile: English Touring Opera", Opera Now (London), October 2012
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