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Monday, 2 April, 2001, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
New opera boss takes charge
Royal Opera House
The Opera House could be hit by a strike
Former BBC executive Tony Hall has taken up his new post as executive director of the Royal Opera House.

Mr Hall, who was the corporation's director of news, was chosen in January to run the London venue, which is home to both the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet.

He succeeds Michael Kaiser, who left in December to become president of the John F Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington.

Tony Hall
First day in the job: Tony Hall
But already he faces a challenge from an industrial dispute with the union Bectu, which represents most of the venue's backstage staff.

The union is balloting its members for strike action this week over alleged victimisation of its branch secretary.

Crisis talks with management broke down last month, and workers handed out a petition to opera-goers at a performance of Turandot.

Any strike could bring the Covent Garden venue to a standstill.

A Bectu spokesman told BBC News Online said leafleting the Opera House's customers had been a success.

He added: "At the Royal Opera House, Mr Hall will find ample opportunity to demonstrate his managerial competence, and to exercise principled and professional leadership."

A Royal Opera House spokesman refused to comment on the possibility of strike action.

Sensitive

Upon his appointment, Mr Hall said: "I look forward to immersing myself completely in this new and stimulating environment."

But as well as being challenging, the role will also be a politically sensitive one, as 78.5m of public money went into a major refurbishment of the premises in 1999.

Culture Secretary Chris Smith demanded the venue's productions be accessible to all opera and dance lovers, and not just the well-off.

Meanwhile, ticket sales for its current production of Hans Werner Henze's Boulevard Solitude have also been reportedly low.

But a spokesman for the venue said: "We're not sitting here with our heads in our hands" - adding that it had been criticised for promoting too much "safe" opera in the past.

See also:

02 Apr 01 | Entertainment
New stage for BBC high flier
11 Jan 01 | Entertainment
BBC's Hall takes top opera job
16 Mar 01 | Music
Opera lovers petitioned
11 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Opera world 'dismayed'
14 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Opera House's Boulevard battle
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