Opera House scheme attacked

THE pounds 150m development of the Royal Opera House was criticised yesterday by Lord Palumbo, chairman of the Arts Council.

He said the proposed development, which would shut the house for three years from 1997, would do virtually nothing to help the 18 per cent of the audience which could not see the stage properly. Lord Palumbo said he wanted to see a new opera house built on the South Bank of the Thames, rather than the money being spent to redevelop Covent Garden.

As the Arts Council will be in charge of distributing national lottery money to the arts, and the Royal Opera House will need pounds 45m lottery money in addition to realising money from office and shop developments for its redevelopment, the house will be hoping that Lord Palumbo's thoughts are not shared by his successor, who will be appointed next year.

Lord Palumbo said that London needed a new opera house and a dance house. The lack of a national dance house was a scandal, he added.

He said: 'I have difficulties with the Royal Opera House. Its horseshoe shape means that 18 per cent of the audience can't see properly and 18 per cent is a lot of people.

'There is no air-conditioning and often not a lot of leg room. These and the backstage facilities are what the Royal Opera House should be concentrating on, not a major redevelopment.'

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