Letter: Price of the opera

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Sir: The news that Bernard Haitink is resigning as music director of the Royal Opera House sounds like the final nail in the coffin for Covent Garden (report, 12 October).

No doubt there have been mistakes and mismanagement at the Opera House. However, we must place the majority of the blame firmly at the feet of the Government and of Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary. I was appalled to listen to his speech at the Labour Party conference, where he got some cheap applause by saying, "We have now dealt with the problem of the Opera House". I thought: yes, you have closed it down.

In the European Parliament we are voting on a new cultural framework programme which celebrates the central importance of music as a key cultural and economic force in Europe. Everyone there is appalled that Britain cannot maintain an international opera house when every other country in the EU maintains several.

They key issue is of course revenue funding. Opera is expensive and needs subsidy. In my travels around Europe I have discovered that the average subsidy per seat price is around 80 per cent, compared with Covent Garden's 30 per cent. New Labour must fully fund the Opera House otherwise we will conclude that they have succumbed to New Philistinism.


(Essex W and Hertfordshire E, Independent Lab)

President, The Friends of Music in the European Parliament

Harlow, Essex