Royal Opera plans extra performances

THE ROYAL Opera House, stung by government criticism of its high prices and inaccessibility for the public, is planning to put on up to 100 more performances a year by the end of the decade. It also wants to open its doors on Sundays.

But it will tell the Government it can only do these things if it goes ahead with a pounds 150m modernisation plan.

Covent Garden management also fears that if it cannot raise the money for its development plan it will still have to close in 1997 for essential health and safety work, and may not be allowed to re-open once the extent of out-of-date backstage machinery is discovered.

With pounds 90m still to raise for the transformation of the house and surrounding area, the management will adopt a new approach when a fund-raising appeal is launched later this year. Until now it has emphasised the need for the rebuilding to replace antiquated backstage facilities and to provide room to bring the Royal Ballet facilities into the house.

But that approach will change after criticisms of ticket prices and inaccessibility in the media and from David Mellor, the Secretary of State for National Heritage in Edinburgh last week.

The Opera House will announce that if the development goes ahead it will be able to increase radically efficiency and productivity backstage.

It will then be able to put on performances on the 40 nights a year which at present are dark and also, for the first time, have regular matinees. Ticket prices are unlikely to come down, but are also unlikely to rise to any great degree.

Even though the pounds 150m modernisation will only result in 100 extra seats, changes to the stage will also improve sightlines.

It is now proposed to close the house for two and a half years from 1997 rather than the four years originally proposed.

So far the Government has not indicated that it will give any money, though the Opera House hopes money might come from a future national lottery. Covent Garden management is worried that recent criticisms might put off large companies from supporting the venture.

It will produce a video for likely benefactors with stars such as Kiri Te Kanawa adding her voice to the urgency for changes to backstage facilities and machinery. The stage is still manoeuvred by pre-World War One submarine engines.

Some pounds 25m of essential work, including rewiring, has to be done. Senior staff said that when health and safety inspectors see the machinery, they might not allow the house to re-open until much more work is done.

Some pounds 60m will be raised from shop and office development on land owned by the Opera House. By the end of this month shops and restaurants will open at the back of the Opera House in the Covent Garden piazza.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk