“Complex issues surrounding his visa application” have been cited as the reason Kiarostami can’t leave Tehran. The production has already been seen in Aix-en-Provence so, to an extent, his work is done and the revival will be looked after by his Associate Director Elaine Tyler-Hall.

Following a less than well-received production of Carmen 18 months ago, in which the filmmaker Sally Potter failed to adapt her skills to the opera stage, this new ENO production will be scrutinised for similar difficulties.

As one his country’s leading artists, Kiarostami has directed over 40 films and will also bring a track record as a poet, painter and photographer to the opera, so the hopes are it will be a more successful meeting of the different disciplines than Carmen proved to be.

ENO’s Artistic Director, John Berry has made the following statement:

“Abbas, together with his designer and the ENO team, has been meeting in Paris over the last six months to further develop his production since its premiere in the Aix-en-Provence Festival last year. It is very sad that such a widely admired artist as Abbas will not be coming to London. However, we are delighted that his trusted British Associate Director Elaine Tyler-Hall, who worked on the creation of the production with him in Aix, will take over the production in his absence. Abbas and I will be in close touch over the coming weeks, even if it has to be from a distance.”

The director himself has said:

“I would like to thank John Berry and the rest of the crew at ENO for the understanding and support they have shown in this very complicated but delicate situation. They respected my position and my principles in spite of the obvious fact that it was putting them in a very precarious and disagreeable position. I have to confess that this gives me hope; the world is still a liveable place malgré tout....”

Our review of the production will appear on 30 May.