Opera wants pounds 40m to improve 'home': London Coliseum to get Edwardian look

Click to follow
ENGLISH National Opera, more than pounds 3m in debt, launched a pounds 40m fund-raising drive yesterday to transform its London Coliseum home.

Lord Harewood, chairman of the ENO, and its general director, Dennis Marks, have asked Shaun Woodward, director of communications for the Conservative Party in the last election campaign, to mastermind the fund-raising. They hope that half will come from national lottery proceeds, and half from private sources, even though opera-loving corporations have already given money to build a new Glyndebourne opera house and are being pressed for funds by the Royal Opera House.

The ENO intends to return the theatre's interiors to their Edwardian originals, with the present blue replaced by the original scarlet, pale rose and gold. It will also refurbish the auditorium, foyers and backstage areas, have a second stage for lunchtime performances, more corporate entertaining facilities, and perhaps, most dramatically, restore the original glass-topped roof restaurant, which would have views over central London.

It was also announced yesterday that the London Coliseum will close for these refurbishments for 18 months from the summer of 1998, which, following the planned closure of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden for its redevelopment, will leave London with only one of its two opera houses for much of the rest of the Nineties. The ENO plans to tour during the closure.

While the demands of arts organisations on lottery money seem to grow weekly, the ENO is convinced its case will be viewed favourably as its prices - ranging from pounds 5 to pounds 48 - are on average one-third of those at Covent Garden, and it performs opera in English, making it most accessible to the general public, it says.

The ENO also signalled that in the coming season it is to stage more traditional favourites to increase its audience. Tosca will be followed by the ENO's first Turandot then Fidelio and Carmen.

(Photograph omitted)