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Wednesday, 7 February, 2001, 13:12 GMT
Opera impresario locks out Equity
Royal Albert Hall
Gubbay's Aida is to be staged at the Albert Hall
Opera impresario Raymond Gubbay - who is staging a production of Aida at the Royal Albert Hall - locked performers into a rehearsal room over a dispute with the actors' union Equity.

Mr Gubbay, credited with bringing opera to the masses with his annual big-budget productions, is in dispute with Equity, which wants representation rights for his cast.

Mr Gubbay told The Independent he locked his opera company into the Three Mills Studio in East London to stop a union official getting in and trying to "call meetings and disrupt rehearsals".

But Equity spokesman Martin Brown denied wanting to cause any disruption, telling BBC News Online: "We are mystified by Mr Gubbay's behaviour. There was no need to lock the doors."

Aida at Cairo's Pyramids of Giza
A version of Aida has been performed at Cairo's Pyramids of Giza
Mr Brown stressed the union is seeking only "to give performers a voice".

"We have no problem with Mr Gubbay's contracts or rates of pay," he added.

Up to 40,000 tickets have already been sold for the production of Aida which opens at The Royal Albert Hall later this month, before going on tour across the country.

Much of Mr Gubbay's success is put down to his relatively low ticket prices, in contrast to establishments such as the Royal Opera House.

But the impresario told The Independent he would not stage any more of his "spectaculars" unless Equity caved in on its demands.

'Stir up trouble'

"The whole concept of this sort of opera is now under threat," he said.

"There's a couple of million pounds riding on the Aida. If they stir up trouble like this, I won't put on productions in the future," he told the Independent.

Mr Gubbay recently missed out on the job of executive director at the Royal Opera House. The position went to Tony Hall, former head of news and current affairs at the BBC.

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See also:

02 Nov 00 | Entertainment
'Arrogant' opera chiefs lambasted
11 Jan 01 | Entertainment
A year in Covent Garden
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