Royal Opera row over US sponsor plan to sell name for pounds 10m

THE ROYAL Opera House is planning to allow an American donor to have his name emblazoned on the front of the building in return for a pounds 10m gift.

If the deal goes ahead it will be the first time that one of Britain's four big national arts companies - the Royal Opera House, RSC, National Theatre and English National Opera - has an individual's name on the outside of its building.

The unprecedented nature of the idea is sure to throw the already troubled institution back into controversy. Devised by the ROH's new American chief executive, Michael Kaiser, the plan would allow the donor's name to precede that of the Floral Hall, which is the public foyer and showpiece of the ROH development.

The move was attacked yesterday by the classical music promoter Raymond Gubbay, who has mounted a co- production with the Royal Opera House in the past. "This sounds like a rather tacky American idea," he said. "It's not very nice to see a state- run company doing this. Great national institutions must have their own integrity. I wouldn't want to see a `Jeffrey Archer Victoria and Albert Museum' or a `Richard Branson Royal Albert Hall'.

"If you were to tell me that by doing this the Royal Opera House would bring seat prices down to pounds 20 top price then I might have to say it's OK, but somehow I suspect this will not happen."

The restored 19th-century iron and glass Floral Hall is next to the ROH entrance, and visible to audiences and passers-by in Covent Garden. The sponsor's name would get pride of place on the new building, which will be the main entrance during the day.

Just under pounds 79m of National Lottery money went towards the ROH redevelopment. The opera house also receives a grant from the Arts Council of pounds 16m a year, which will rise to pounds 20m by April 2000.

Mr Gubbay said yesterday: "If there has to be a name on the outside of the building then perhaps it should be `The People's Lottery Floral Hall'."

Mr Kaiser is understood to have had to convince the ROH chairman, Sir Colin Southgate, who was unhappy with the idea and feared it would alarm the arts community. Mr Kaiser seems to have won the battle.

A spokeswoman said yesterday there was no rift between Mr Kaiser and Sir Colin. She said the ROH was negotiating with a number of American donors and charitable trusts, but no commercial sponsors. She said other parts of the building, including the ballet studio that looked out over the Covent garden piazza, could yet have names attached to them.

This latest controversy at the opera house follows a decision by its management to engage a commercial promoter to stage a season by The Royal Ballet in the lottery-funded House, meaning that hundreds of thousands of pounds from ticket sales are likely to go to the promoter. Geoffrey O'Connell, a consultant who helps to monitor lottery money spending, said : "It's outrageous. The lottery was not set up to fund venture capitalism. It was meant to go to good causes."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea