Benefactor from Cuba gives pounds 10m to Opera House pounds 10m

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The Independent Online
A CUBAN philanthropist has given pounds 10m to the Royal Opera House restoration fund in return for having his name emblazoned in the main foyer when it reopens in two months.

The gift from Alberto Vilar, a Cuban-born financier who lives in New York, means that Covent Garden has almost met its pounds 100m target. Royal Opera House chiefs said yesterday they are just pounds 5m short.

The reconstructed Floral Hall, which was origninally built as a Victorian flower market and forms the showpiece of the new development, will now be named the Vilar Floral Hall.

Mr Vilar said yesterday: "As someone who has enjoyed many exciting productions at Covent Garden over 20 years, I am delighted to be able to provide major assistance to help the House and its companies continue to maintain the pre-eminent position they have held for so many years as a bastion of artistic excellence.

"I truly believe that the newly redeveloped House will be a flagship for opera houses all over the world and its wonderful new facilities will undoubtedly bring artists considerable satisfaction and the public enormous enjoyment in the new millennium."

Mr Vilar has given substantial funds to new opera productions and young programmes at the Metropolitan Opera, the Kirov, the Salzburg Festival and Carnegie Hall.

In addition to the pounds 10m for building work at the Royal Opera House, Mr Vilar has pledged funds to help establish a new Young Artists Programme and a minimum of three new productions over the next five years.

"My support for young artists programmes at other houses has given immense personal pleasure, as I watch these unusually gifted artists become the stars of tomorrow," he said.

"I am very happy that my gift will support new opera and help establish a new programme for young artists at the Royal Opera and I look forward to continuing my support over the coming years."

The Vilar Floral Hall is one of the three most significant front-of-house areas to be named in honour of the generosity of their donors. The others are The Linbury Studio Theatre and The Clore Studio Upstairs.