Letter: Funding opera

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Sir: Performing arts bodies are unusual organisations. The culture and spirit of each organisation is unique and seminal to its artistic integrity and output. The proposal to merge venues for English National Opera, Royal Opera House and Ballet (report, 4 November) seems likely to seriously undermine the independent spirit of each, and is inevitably an incremental step towards merger.

However, great opportunities for economics undoubtedly exist. The challenge facing Sir Richard Eyre in his review must be to find a solution which maintains the companies' independence whilst reducing operating costs. Without evicting ENO from the Coliseum, there is plenty of scope for the central London companies to share resources. For example they could share, inter alia, booking offices, accounts and human resources departments, utility contracts, engineering services, and so on.

There are many ways in which the companies could combine resources to achieve economies, without having to sacrifice their individual character.

MATTHEW EATOUGH

The Cost Reduction Partnership

London W1

Sir: Chris Smith's laudable desire for a "people's opera" (report, 4 November) should in fact be for at least three opera houses in London. They should be partially subsidised by the state, as in Germany, which has over 100 opera houses; Britain has six. Any reduction in the number of London stages would prevent the public from gaining personal access. On a per capita basis, London should have 21 orchestras and 10 opera houses, if compared to the city of Munich.

DENIS VAUGHAN

Executive Director

The Lottery Promotion Company Limited

London WC2

Liberal Democrats

Sir: You say ("Blair's project is simple: squeeze the middle class", 5 November) that the Liberal Democrats cannot develop as an opposition to Tony Blair "without turning their

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