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Monday, October 12, 1998 Published at 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK


Song and dance at Royal Opera House

Royal Opera House set to close for a year

Britain's troubled Royal Opera House has received yet another blow after its music director Bernard Haitink threatened to resign in protest at the year-long planned closure.

The Dutch-born conductor is reported to have been furious at being told of the Opera House's closure by a fax.

He told a Sunday newspaper: "I was flabbergasted. Imagine! I was not consulted."

[ image: Sir Colin Southgate, Chairman of ROH unaware of artists movements]
Sir Colin Southgate, Chairman of ROH unaware of artists movements
He also criticised the Royal Opera House chairman, Sir Colin Southgate, for his handling of the organisation, saying : "I'm afraid the new chairman does not understand artists and so does everything against us.

"He never comes to anything, he does not know what we are doing."

Mr Haitink is reported to have said he would only reconsider his resignation if the Royal Opera's cancelled programme for the next year was restored.

[ image:  ]
The plan to close the opera house was announced in September by Sir Colin in a bid to pull the world-famous venue back from its £13m debt.

According to a spokesman for Culture Secretary Chris Smith, in light of Mr Haitink's resignation, the plans to shut down the house for a year remain unchanged.

Contingency plan

Dancers from the Opera House, which has been beset by a series of management crises, have been drafting contingency plans to save the Royal Ballet in the event of the Opera's closure.

With the Opera house's imminent closure all 83 dancers have been given a deadline of October 26 to either accept new contracts that would cut their wages by £5,000 or take redundancy.

It is unlikely that the dancers will meet this deadline. Instead they are pressing for Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, chairman of the Royal Ballet Board, to raise money to ensure the Royal Ballet can perform independently of the ROH next year.

This would lead to the Royal Opera House dividing into two companies - the Royal Ballet and Royal Opera - leaving Covent Garden to be rebuilt for £191m as an independent venue with the aid of a lottery grant.

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