After 20 years leading English Touring Opera – and approaching an interesting birthday – Director James Conway has decided to take a step away from a full time position with the company in order to pursue freelance opportunities.
Conway has agreed to remain Artistic Director of English Touring Opera in a part time capacity until the end of 2022, working with Interim Chief Executive Michael Garvey; during this period the company will recruit a new leader to carry on its important work in bringing live opera to people and places all over the country.
This announcement comes as English Touring Opera is in rehearsals for a new season, with performances of La Bohème and of The Golden Cockerel (ETO’s first Rimsky-Korsakov) in theatres, the St John Passion in churches as well as theatres, performances of Paper and Tin and How to Find Your Name in schools, and new online presentations of Il pianto di Maria (Ferrandini), The Firebird (based on Michael Rosen’s poem) and Under the Little Red Moon (for infants).
“Opera that Moves” is a tagline devised by Conway – and it has described aptly his 20 years with English Touring Opera, during which the company has integrated presentations in theatres with lively and diverse presentations in schools, halls and churches. The company has an unrivalled network of partnerships with theatres and audiences, educators and young people, choirs, orchestras, and all manner of freelance artists; embedded in these partnerships is a dedication to excellence and to inclusiveness. On stage ETO has become associated with confidence, seriousness, high standards and a belief in the power of lyric theatre to move all kinds of people. Conway’s repertoire choices have been both surprising and persuasive, all of them based on the exceptional talent of freelance artists from all backgrounds working in the UK. Over the last two years, when opportunities for live performance were curtailed, Conway devised and curated an online programme of genuine originality, and used every possible opportunity to keep freelance artists in work and empowered.
“’Opera that Moves’”, says Conway, “must keep on moving! With English Touring Opera I have had the most extraordinary opportunity to collaborate with excellent artists on the creation of a body of work made for a wonderful, engaged audience. Iphigenie en Tauride, King Priam, nine great operas by Handel, Idomeneo and Tito as well as Giovannis and Figaros, the finest of Janacek, Donizetti and Rossini seria, the premiere of Sandy Goehr’s taut and inspiring Promised End, Laika the Space Dog, more than 20 new commissions for young people, the Bach Passions staged with nearly a hundred local choirs in every corner of the country, and a recent lockdown digital season stagings of Machaut, Josquin, Shostakovich, Langer and Copland: who would have thought it?”
“Now that moveable and moving show will move on in new directions, with the continued support of audiences, generous donors, and all our stakeholders. It’s a great company, financially secure, well managed and ambitious – and great chiefly because it is light in structure and rich in artists and audiences. The new leader will be a very lucky person, as I have been very lucky, and I look forward to working with this new leader later in 2022.”
Mark Beddy, Chair of the Board of English Touring Opera, comments: “James Conway has led English Touring Opera with imagination, energy and distinction for almost twenty years. In that time, he has transformed the artistic reputation of the company, while carefully managing our financial resources. He will leave the company in a secure position with an exciting future. Our task now is to find a worthy successor to carry on our mission to make exceptional artistic experiences available and accessible to everyone through touring – ‘Opera That Moves’.”