The London Coliseum as English National Opera faces the swan song
He has now secured an emergency meeting with Culture Secretary Michele Donelan in which he will plead for the group to retain its London base while launching a “satellite” branch elsewhere in the country.
With a move to Manchester now on the cardshowever, the ENO may be forced to put the Colosseum – its crown jewel – up for sale.
Unsurprisingly, West End theater sales are infrequent. The last on the open market dates back to 2018, when the billionaire Sir Len Blavatnik paid £45million for the remaining 67-year lease on the Theater Royal Haymarket.
Mark Churchouse, Senior Director of Leisure at CBRE, said: “Obviously there is a huge shortage of opportunities to acquire theaters in London.
“Any theater that becomes available in the West End would have huge demand from a significant number of potential buyers.”
Despite the chaos sown in the theater industry by the pandemic, the outlook – at least in the medium term – is optimistic.
The public is returning after the lockdowns and American tourists are flocking to the capital in droves, taking advantage of a weak pound.
“It would be wrong to say there has been no impact and things are going well,” Churchouse says.
“It’s hard work for operators and we’re going to have a tough time in theaters, as we are with everything else.
“But this is London’s West End theater market and there will always be confidence in that market.”
Additionally, the Colosseum, which ENO bought for £12.8million in 1992, is a particularly rare find. With almost 2,400 seats and a stage over 24 meters wide, it is the largest theater in the West End.
Apart from the prestige, this makes the Coliseum an attractive proposition for an investor hoping to launch a large production with a long profitable life.
Four years after gaining a foothold in the theater world, there is speculation that Blavatnik could dive again, although a spokesperson for the mogul denied he was interested in the Colosseum.
Other players linked to a possible deal include Ambassador Theater Group, which owns dozens of venues in the West End and on Broadway, including the Lyceum and Apollo Victoria, and Delftont Mackintosh, the group behind the Sondheim and Noel Coward theatres.
Renowned producers, including David Ian and Andrew Lloyd Webber, may also have designs at the historic site.
For NWE, however, the battle has only just begun. A petition to restore funding for the organization, started by Welsh opera singer Sir Bryn Terfel Jones, easily exceeded its target of 25,000 signatures.
Meanwhile, boss Stuart Murphy is hoping he can force the government to rethink, underscoring ENO’s desire to target a diverse and young audience.