Let me sing in my own country

ANOTHER VIEW
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The Independent Online
The Millennium Commission's decision to turn down the proposal for the Cardiff Bay Opera House is disappointing both for the opera-going public in Wales and also for people like me who would sing in it. I am fortunate in that I am asked to sing in many of the world's most famous opera houses, such as the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the Vienna Staatsoper. Next year I make my operatic debut at La Scala, Milan, then in 1999 I will sing my first Falstaff at Sydney Opera House.

All these opera houses have earned their reputation and now have an established place in the world of the performing arts. Wales, although it is a small country, has a long history of producing fine singers. In recent memory, Stuart Burrows, the late Sir Geraint Evans, Margaret Price and Dame Gwynneth Jones have all enjoyed major international careers.

Wales also has, in Welsh National Opera, a company that in a relatively short period of time has established standards of performance that are the equal of many more famous and longer established opera companies. Yet, despite this cultural heritage, we are not able to provide Welsh National Opera with the permanent venue it deserves and which is capable of staging opera on a scale that is possible in most of the other capital cities of Europe. The country that has contributed so much to the world of opera could be destined to remain the poor relation in terms of being able to use the fine singers it produces.

I had been discussing the possibility of being involved in the opening of the new opera house in Cardiff by singing the title role in Wagner's Flying Dutchman. It is a very exciting proposal for any singer, let alone a Welshman returning to his own country - and what a marvellous way for Wales to celebrate the millennium. A new opera house for a deserving public and a major landmark in my career as part of the celebration. It would have made me very proud to be part of it.

The Wagner repertoire is something I shall be moving into over the coming years, yet the current facilities available to Welsh National Opera at the New Theatre in Cardiff and other relatively small theatres in the provinces, make it impossible to stage.

I have a very full diary of engagements over the next six to seven years, and that there is little possibility of a return to Wales for my roles in future is very sad. There are other possibilities, including an offer from the Metropolitan Opera in New York for the time I would have spent performing Dutchman in Cardiff. But I know where I would rather be on St David's Day in the year 2000 - on home soil.

The author is an international bass-baritone.

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