Monitor: The spat between Sadler's Wells and the Royal Opera House, as viewed by the world's press

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The Independent Culture
WHEN the first audience take their seats in the whizzy 1,570-seat auditorium, their eyes will be as much on the building itself as on its brave first-footers, the Rambert Dance Company. The new [Sadler's Wells building] has risen at what, for Britain, is lightning speed. [It] is at heart, a good project. It is not a masterpiece and certainly not a building to welcome the millennium with a trumpet blast.

On the plus side, though, it is designed to serve its occupants. The sad thing is that the finish of the building shows signs of haste. A little more thought, a little more care and a lot less arts world in-fighting might just have turned a trouper into a star.

- Jonathan Glancey, Guardian

WITH the pounds 48 million rebuilding of Sadler's Wells, London at last has a world-class dance stage. The run-up to [Monday] night's reopening was as hectic and emotional as anything seen on the stage. The building timetable was so tight that only a week ago bare concrete walls, hanging wires and builder's detritus backstage belied the optimism of Ian Albery, the chief executive, that the theatre would be ready on the night. Sadler's Wells have eschewed a permanent company in favour of an open-door policy to welcome different dance forms and companies, taking overdue advantage of London's enthusiastic and knowledgeable audience for dance.

- The Times

THIS is good news from the National Lottery: a pounds 36m investment supplemented by pounds 12m of private money to restore one of the most important and reverberative venues in the capital.

Like the Old Vic, the Wells represents all that is best and popular in the arts. Tony Blair's presence was a very good signal, a much needed antidote to all that Britpop and London fashion hyper-nonsense. The theatre is a new marvel.

The old brick facade on Rosebery Avenue is now glass and chrome on four transparent levels. The stage has been widened to provide the best new dedicated arena dance has ever had in London.

- Michael Coveney, Daily Mail

SADLER'S Wells, with justification, threatens to sue [the Royal Opera House] as it sees its new structure bombed by the Byzantine barminess that seems to characterise our flagship opera and ballet house. And is the Ballet under threat? Most people in it think so. More people are asking who really needs the ROH? Other companies shine and would kill for the space, the subsidy, given to Covent Garden. It is an albatross around the neck of arts subsidy. Things have fallen apart. So let it go.

Let it say farewell to the state. Let it be privatised.

- Melvyn Bragg, Daily Telegraph

[BERNARD Haitink's] resignation as music director of the Royal Opera House is a body blow to the artistic reputation of Covent Garden. [Haitink] alleged endemic management incompetence and arrogance that had stretched his loyalty beyond breaking point. The decisive moment came when he was informed by fax of Southgate's [the new chairman] decision to cancel the 1999 season. "I was flabbergasted," said Haitink. "It said, 'Maybe you will be interested in this.' Imagine! I'm afraid the new chairman does not understand artists and so does everything against us. Closing the company for a year is lethal."

- The Sunday Times

SIR Colin Southgate said that the [Royal Opera House's] deficit stood at $21m, and that without next year's closing it would be likely to increase to $41m by March 2000. Gerry Morrissey, assistant general secretary of the union that represents the opera's staff, described the proposal as "outrageous". If "you wish to retain the finest opera and ballet companies in the world, then you have to employ the best staff," he said, adding, "Once again, the people who work so hard to put on some of the highest quality shows in the world are being sacrificed to save the suits."

- Sarah Lyall, New York Times

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