Is this the way to run an opera house?

MPs get glimpse of 'Byzantine' world inside Covent Garden

The plain man's guide to running the Royal Opera House was yesterday spelled out to astonished MPs by some of the most famous people in the arts world:

t If you're a male chairman of the funding body, "don't bond too closely" with your female chief executive;

t Resign when you discover how Byzantine and unchangeable the place is;

t Make sure you are still paid nine months after you have stopped working there.

In a dramatic session of the National Heritage Select Committee's inquiry into the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, Lord Gowrie described how ROH chairman Lord Chadlington had "raided" the Arts Council's secretary- general, Mary Allen, from behind his back. He had been led to believe that the Secretary of State for Culture, Chris Smith, had approved her appointment as chief executive.

He had accepted that from Ms Allen, he added, because "I bonded too closely with her ... I don't mean bond in a sinister way. I was used to working too closely with this individual."

Select committee chairman Gerald Kaufman said the directors of the opera house appeared to appoint themselves, and noted that "it's not really satisfactory that this very large sum of public money should be at the disposal of a group of people whose relationship to democratic appointments is nil".

Lord Gowrie's eyebrow-raising evidence to the committee was followed by a highly dignified and moving explanation by Genista McIntosh of why she resigned in May after only five months as chief executive.

"I left because I was extremely unhappy in the job," she said. "There is no doubt that being unhappy causes one to be distressed and also stressed." She went on to say that the ROH was "too diffuse and fragmented managerially". The opera and ballet companies had their own boards, the ROH Trust was another independent entity.

When Mr Kaufman asked if it was fair to say that it was a club that made her feel excluded, Ms McIntosh replied: "It's not entirely unfair to say that."

But then, dramatically, Mr Kaufman MP said to her: "You've just utterly blown this cover story that you resigned due to ill health. You found the problems of the culture of the opera house too great to cope with."

Ms McIntosh responded that there was a link between unhappiness and stress. "There's a line to be drawn between recognising that and doing something about it, and not recognising that until it's too late. I did believe that if I had not resigned when I did I would have become ill. So there was an issue of ill health."

The drama of the session continued with evidence from Ms McIntosh's predecessor, Sir Jeremy Isaacs. Referring to revelation in The Independent on Wednesday that Sir Jeremy was still being paid months after leaving his post as general director, one MP asked bluntly: "How do you justify pounds 120,000 a year for doing nothing?"

Sir Jeremy replied: "I don't get salary from the Royal Opera House and I haven't been paid salary since January ... What in effect [the board] did is pay out my contract."

The best summary so far came from committee member Michael Fabricant MP: "There's rather more drama backstage than there is on stage at the Royal Opera House."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'