English National Opera is about to lose its dynamic figurehead. The company has announced that its highly-acclaimed Music Director Edward Gardner will leave his role at the end of the 2014-15 season to take up his new appointment as Chief Conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. He will be succeeded by Mark Wigglesworth, who takes up the ENO baton in September 2015.
The man know to all as just 'Ed' has led some of ENO's most critically acclaimed productions since he took up the post in 2007. A committed company man, he has three further operas on his slate for the current season alone, starting with next week's revival of Peter Grimes.
Gardner is the company's second high-profile departure in recent weeks. It follows on the resignation of former Chief Executive Loretta Tomasi, who quit her post only last month. However, eight years in one job is pretty good going for a conductor an ambitious and gifted as Gardner. The news of his departure may come as a surprise, and will doubtless give rise to conspiracy theories, but it probably makes sense as a career move for a conductor who is ready to be courted by the world's major opera houses.
In his resignation statement, Gardner said: "At ENO I've been surrounded by brilliant people and I will never forget nine seasons of working with such an outstanding orchestra, chorus and music team. Certainly, the next 18 months are looking as exciting and challenging as ever. I look forward to returning to conduct at ENO (as guest conductor) in 2016."
The new man at the helm has a tough act to follow, but Mark Wigglesworth is no stranger to St Martin's Lane. Since his acclaimed début in 2001 with Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk he has conducted Così fan tutte and Falstaff as well as five-star accounts of Katya Kabanova(2010) and Parsifal (2011). Elsewhere, he has worked with, among others, Glyndebourne, the Metropolitan Opera and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where he will be conducting again shortly before taking up his post at ENO.
Wigglesworth has already spoken about his appointment, saying "I have worked at ENO often enough to know that talent and experience, professionalism and passion run through the entire company. To be part of this family of experts will be inspiring and fulfilling in equal measure. ENO has been close to my heart for over 30 years and to be part of its future is a privilege that I look forward to immensely."