ENO Breathe

ENO Breathe

A joint initiative between Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and English National Opera

Suzi is the Creative Director of ENO Breathe, a pioneering programme she has developed together with the Baylis team at English National Opera and respiratory experts at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.  ENO Breathe is a six week course designed for people recovering from COVID-19 who continue to suffer from breathlessness and associated anxiety after their initial infection.
Breath is the power source for all vocal sound; we can’t speak or sing without it. Opera singers train extensively to distil the many complex physiological demands involved in their craft into a single thought or sensation so that they can communicate music effectively and with economy of effort.  ENO Breathe mirrors this philosophy; technical knowledge and expertise go hand in hand with emotional and musical connection. This reciprocal approach encourages participants to connect with and experience the course contents rather than approaching exercises purely intellectually.
ENO Breathe is rooted in the music of safety – lullabies – whose very purpose is to soothe. Lullabies span cultures and continents, stretch back further than the written word and are simple and inclusive. Their purpose is as much to calm the singer as the listener.  Singing lullabies not only puts into practice ideas from the programme, but also builds emotional connections with exercises designed to improve breathlessness and support healthy voice use. Participants leave ENO Breathe sessions with a calming song in their heart, and a positive emotional connection to a wealth of tools and exercises.  In practical terms, this means that resources are more memorable, more meaningful and, crucially, more useable.
Those on the ENO Breathe programme receive a weekly lullaby film in their inbox.  A gift from ENO, each film is a moment from an opera that has been specially recorded at the London Coliseum. These films possess real specificity of time and place as they are intended for this precise audience in this very moment. Participants can let go and lose themselves in the musical embrace of intimate performances as they work to regain their breath and their equilibrium.  
Being part of a group with a shared experience further enhances the impact of ENO Breathe as participants appreciate the emotional support that comes from connecting with that group. At the end of the independently evaluated pilot, 90% participants reported positive improvement in their breathlessness, and 91% participants felt their levels of anxiety had dropped.

“One of the hardest things about being a doctor, which I always say to my trainees, is saying to someone: ‘We don’t understand why you are getting these symptoms.’ It’s much easier to say: ‘Your X-ray is abnormal, that’s why you’re feeling like that.’” ENO Breathe acts as “a holistic mechanism, once we have made sure there is no other cause [for the breathlessness]”.

Dr Sarah Elkin, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine & Clinical Director Integrated Care at Imperial

‘The arts have a huge role to play in acting as a salve as the country recovers from COVID-19 and this project embodies the power of opera’
Stuart Murphy, CEO of English National Opera
You can read about the national roll out of ENO Breathe in The Telegraph,   The New York Times, The Independent, Classic FM, and  Classical Music Magazine.
ENO Breathe has been featured on BBC Breakfast and ITV news, on BBC radio 4’s Today programme and on BBC radio 5 Live as well as on many local radio stations and numerous global news channels.
If you have any enquiries relating to ENO Breathe, please email the team directly at: info.breathe@eno.org