English National Opera has recruited the record producer and music director of La La Land Marius de Vries as creative consultant to help develop projects away from traditional opera.
The company said De Vries, who has written and produced for artists including Madonna, David Bowie, Rufus Wainwright, Massive Attack and Annie Lennox, would contribute to projects “combining and colliding opera with popular music and electronic music”.
The appointment appears to demonstrate the intention of ENO’s new artistic director, Daniel Kramer, to shake things up at a company which has had more than its share of troubles in recent years.
ENO said it was about bringing its work “to an audience that may never have considered engaging with opera before”.
Kramer said: “Alongside ENO’s more traditional productions, it is vital that we continue to push the boundaries of opera and explore the different routes that this most wonderful art form may take in the future.”
He said a series of projects would collide opera with music from many different genres. “He [De Vries] brings with him an exceptional level of expertise across the music, film and broadcast industries, and I look forward to sharing the fruits of this collaboration with you in due course.”
Kramer and De Vries, who is providing his services on a pro bono basis, worked together in 2013 on a doomed $36m King Kong mega-musical.
De Vries said: “I am thrilled to be reconnecting my creative relationship with the inspirational and visionary Daniel Kramer, honoured to be welcomed into the ENO family, and beyond excited to be helping to develop and nurture new projects and collaborations informed by the ENO’s long tradition of adventure and innovation, at the same time reaching out to whole new audiences.”
De Vries has a long and impressive musical CV. As well as producing pop artists, he was music director on Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge and co-wrote the soundtrack and score for Romeo + Juliet, another Luhrmann film. More recently he was music director and music producer on La La Land.
His appointment will be welcomed by people who believe ENO needs to be more daring, but may alarm traditional opera-goers.
The choice of Kramer – who has never run an opera house – as artistic director was a surprise and was seen by many as the last shake of the dice for a company which seemed almost permanently embattled.
It followed numerous resignations and rancour which contributed to ENO’s removal from Arts Council England’s national portfolio of organisations given regular funding.
Kramer has passionate supporters but vocal detractors. The Australian tenor and ENO regular Stuart Skelton said last month Kramer was the wrong man for the job. He told the Bachtrack website: “Not only is he not experienced but the only times he’s been in something genuinely large scale, it fell over.”
Kramer is due to announce his first season as artistic director in April.