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Sunday, 1 September, 2002, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Opera backer attacks government
The Royal Opera House reopened in 1999 with Verdi's Falstaff
The Royal Opera House reopened in 1999 with Verdi's Falstaff
Alberto Vilar, who has helped finance the renovation of London's Royal Opera House, has attacked the UK Government for its treatment of arts benefactors.

"In Germany and Austria the chancellor and the president invite me to dinner, and have given me honours - but here in Britain nobody in government has called me up, nobody has talked to me," the Sunday Times reported Mr Vilar as saying.

Governments need to remember to say the two most important words - thank you

Alberto Vilar

A Cuban-American millionaire, Mr Vilar has given the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden some 25m in support and pledges in recent years.

'Pendulum'

And he said that the government would regret its "short-sightedness".

"The pendulum is swinging against public funding and once there are cutbacks they will really need people like me," the newspaper reported him as saying.

"Rich people need to be persuaded, or even shamed into giving.

Royal Opera House
Vilar praised Opera House director Tony Hall
"But governments and recipients also need to remember to say the two most important words - thank you."

Mr Vilar, an opera-lover, became rich through investments in the technology sector.

Next month he is set to marry Karen Painter, a professor of musicology and Harvard University in the US, and is planning to scale down his opera-going.

Recent falls in technology stocks may also have an affect on his contributions to opera houses - which he has supported all over the world.

"My memory of how people responded to my difficulties will be very long," he said.

But he said the Royal Opera Hose will continue to receive his support, and praised the house's director Tony Hall.

"I adore Covent Garden," he said.

"Tony Hall has been the very model of a gentleman."

See also:

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