Letter: Fate of the opera

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The Royal Opera House may be one of the last bastions of 1970s amateurish and incompetent management ("Opera to shut for year and fire staff", 10 September).

It would be very surprising if the Government chose to waste the resource of a splendid new house by running it well below capacity for the want of a sensible subsidy. The comparison for the Royal Opera House must be the German opera houses and other leading European houses, which have traditionally received much higher public subventions than Covent Garden.

It really is time that commentators stopped going on about Glyndebourne and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Glyndebourne is a wonderful institution, but it is a small company that gives a handful of smallish-scale operas for a few weeks in the summer, with a borrowed orchestra and singers on short contracts.

The new Covent Garden, even if sensibly restaffed, will be a huge operation, handling multiple productions by two large companies. It uses international star conductors and singers.

The Metropolitan opera does get large amounts of corporate and private sponsorship, but by all accounts still has to be fairly conservative with its repertoire to keep the audiences coming. New York is a vastly richer city than London, with many mega-corporations and far more opera-fancying millionaires and, indeed, billionaires. Let us be realistic, Covent Garden will never attract that level of giving.

What we will have soon is a wonderful new facility, and two companies with great traditions to build on. It should be properly and economically managed, and should receive appropriate levels of both public and private subsidy to justify the huge capital investment in the rebuilding.


Hanworth, Norfolk