English Touring Opera (ETO) has revealed that multi award-winning theatre writer and director Robin Norton-Hale has been appointed the company’s new general director; she will take up the role in July 2022.
Norton-Hale is currently chief executive and artistic director of OperaUpClose, a company she co-founded in 2009. She has a relationship with ETO spanning 20 years, having first worked there as press and marketing officer early in her career. She was given her first directing opportunities at ETO, and is now a regular collaborator as a consultant and artist. Most recently, for the company’s autumn 2022 season, she wrote the libretto for an upcoming opera for young people, with a score by Rosabella Gregory.
“The company’s board of directors is delighted to welcome a general director who has such a long history with English Touring Opera to carry on its important work in bringing live opera to people and places all over the country,” ETO said in a statement.
Norton-Hale has brought an imaginative and visionary perspective to opera, from reimagining the classics for national and international touring with OperaUpClose, Malmö Opera and Ravenna Festival, to commissioning artists including Laura Bowler and Mark Ravenhill and bringing much-loved children’s picture books to the opera stage.
In her new role at ETO, she will build on the company’s success of the last 20 years, widening the repertoire and exploring new partnerships with other organisations and a wide range of composers, writers and performers, while continuing to present audience favourites through inventive and alternative approaches.
She commented: “I am delighted to be joining English Touring Opera, whose mission to make outstanding opera accessible to the widest possible audience has been an inspiration to me throughout my career.
“Like many other people around the country, it was through ETO’s brilliant productions that I first encountered some devastating music-dramas (particularly Janáček) and lesser-known baroque masterpieces, which under James Conway’s fearless leadership ETO have made their own.
“It’s an honour to have the opportunity to build on English Touring Opera’s reputation for exceptional artistry and commitment to opera for all, especially their brilliant new work for young people, and I am very excited about what the future holds.”
Under Norton-Hale’s leadership, OperaUpClose – which is currently working on a new production of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman (Der fliegende Holländer, 1843) – has produced more than 30 operas, including commissions from Laura Bowler, Michael Nyman and Mark Ravenhill and premieres by Katarzyna Brochocka, Spyros Syrmos and Luke Styles.
Her Olivier Award-winning production of La bohème (The Bohemians, Puccini, 1896) was performed more than 200 times at venues all over the UK and toured internationally to the Ravenna Opera Festival. In 2019 Norton-Hale and composer Joanna Lee’s opera for very young children, Peace at Last, was seen by over 4,000 children.
Of her time at the company she said: “When we staged La bohème in a tiny pub theatre back in 2009 I could never have imagined the impact it would have, or the organisation OperaUpClose would become. Thank you so much to all of you for your support – you’ve helped create an amazing body of work.
“With such a talented and committed chair, board of trustees and staff, I know OperaUpClose will continue to go from strength to strength, and I look forward to seeing what happens next, as it is sure to be bold and brilliant.”
ETO’s artistic director James Conway added: “I have a warm feeling in welcoming Robin back to English Touring Opera. Few hold so close to their heart the company’s mission. Quite apart from the artistic distinction of her work with her own company, Robin started out by finding and meeting the audience for ETO around the country. I am confident that her care for audiences and artists will lead English Touring Opera to make opera that moves.”
OperaUpClose chief executive and artistic director Robin Norton-Hale has been appointed general director of English Touring Opera (Matt Jones).