Fired Dome boss could run Royal Opera House

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The Independent Culture

Jennie Page, sacked as chief executive of the Millennium Dome, could be the next director of the Royal Opera House.

Jennie Page, sacked as chief executive of the Millennium Dome, could be the next director of the Royal Opera House.

ROH sources say that Ms Page has applied for the post of executive director, which becomes vacant next month when the present incumbent, Michael Kaiser, returns to America. It is believed that Ms Page would have support from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, where officials feel that she may have been made an early scapegoat for the Dome's failings.

She is likely to end up in a head to head fight for the Royal Opera House post with John Tusa, managing director of the Barbican Centre and a former head of the BBC World Service. Friends of Mr Tusa said yesterday he had expressed inter-est in the ROH job, and would like to climax his career by showing he could make a success of a job that had defeated almost everyone who had held it in recent years.

Former executive directors Mary Allen and Genista McIntosh resigned after only a few months. Apart from Ms Page and Mr Tusa, two other names are being talked about at the Royal Opera House. They are Nicholas Payne, head of the English National Opera, and Sarah Billinghurst, the deputy director of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. The ROH chairman, Sir Colin Southgate, is known to favour Mr Payne, who formerly ran the opera company at the ROH. But he is enjoying a successful period at ENO and is unlikely to be willing to return to Covent Garden.

One obstacle is thought to be the generous powers given to the new ROH music director, Antonio Pappano. His contract is understood to give him a big say in the hiring of singers and casting vetoes, which could impinge on the financial powers of the executive director's job. In addition, under the arcane ROH rules, the Royal Opera House Trust, headed by Vivien Duffield, is not obliged to hand over money it raises to the opera house.

Sarah Billinghurst was considered last time the post was vacant; Vivien Duffield, animportant member of the appointments panel, is understood to have opposed her on the basis that the executivedirector needed to have been in charge of an institution.

One other name that could come into the frame is Nicholas Snowman, who resigned earlier this month as artistic director of Glyndebourne, after what is believed to have been a clash with Glyndebourne's owner, Gus Christie. Possibilities for the Glyndebourne job include Jonathan Reekie, head of the Aldeburgh Festival, Anthony Freud, general director of Welsh National Opera, Richard Jarman, former head of Scottish Opera, and Elaine Padmore, who runs the opera company at Covent Garden. If she were to be appointed, Miss Padmore would be Glyndebourne's first female artistic director.

The Royal Opera House succession could yet become contentious. Raymond Gubbay, the classical music impresario whose application to be executive director has been turned down, said yesterday that the Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, should look into the appointments procedures.

Mr Gubbay made public a 12-point plan exposing efficiencies and outlining how prices could be lowered and access increased. He said the appointment panel merely wanted a "toady" to Sir Colin Southgate. Mr Gubbay said: "I am surprised that Chris Smith has not made any comment, given that this was a new initiative enthusiastically supported in the press."

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