Cash shortage 'forced ballet to open in US'

Click to follow
THE Royal Opera House embarrassed the Government yesterday when Jeremy Isaacs, its general director, said that he had premiered the Royal Ballet's new version of The Sleeping Beauty in front of President Clinton in Washington because there was insufficient money to put it on in Britain.

President Clinton called the new version, choreographed by Anthony Dowell, the Royal Ballet director, 'magical and immortal', and it received rave reviews in the American press when it was unveiled in Washington this month.

Yesterday Mr Isaacs said it had proved impossible to premiere the show in London as the grant from the Arts Council only allowed for one new production of a full-length ballet a season.

Opening The Sleeping Beauty in Washington was, he said, 'in a way very wonderful and in a way absolutely dotty'.

And in what amounted to a double assault on the paucity of government funding, he pledged, for the first time, to guarantee to bring seat prices down by up to a fifth if the grant to the Royal Opera House were increased.

At a briefing for journalists on the Royal Opera House's finances, it became clear that Mr Isaacs - and in particular the chairman of the ROH, Angus Stirling - had accepted the force of the case for lower prices to make top-class opera and ballet more accessible.

The board and management were very concerned about seat prices, Mr Stirling said. Mr Isaacs added: 'If we could reduce some prices by 10 or 15 or even 20 per cent it would be a tremendous boon to the public. The bulk of what we receive we will put to reducing prices.'

Top prices are now pounds 102, compared with pounds 37 10 years ago.

The ROH, which gets an Arts Council grant of pounds 19m - frozen for the current year - has an accumulated deficit of pounds 1.4m, though it had an operating surplus of pounds 400,000 in the financial year just ended. Box office receipts fell from pounds 19.1m in 1992/93 to pounds 17.3m in 1993/94.

The campaign to get the Government - through the Arts Council - to increase the amount of money given to the Royal Opera House comes at a time when both the opera and the ballet company have had strong and innovative seasons.

The English National Opera announced last night it would devise a new pricing structure to include new low prices of pounds 35 in the stalls and pounds 5 in the balcony.