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Wednesday, 24 November, 1999, 04:53 GMT
Royal Opera reopens with a closure
The cancellation allows more time for rehearsals

Thousands of opera lovers eager to return to the 214m Royal Opera House after its three-year renovation will have to wait a little longer.

Just days before next week's official opening, overambitious scheduling has meant the cancellation of six performances of Gyorgy Ligeti's contemporary opera Le Grand Macabre.

The opera was a "contemporary sex comedy"
The famous Covent Garden building reopens officially on 1 December following years of bitter rows, reports of spiralling costs and delays, resignations and threats of walkouts by everyone from artists to electricians.

Now it is having to deal with yet another public relations setback.

The season was meant to open with three major ballet productions and three operas.

But delays in the renovation work meant that there was not enough stage time to accommodate rehearsals for all the productions - so something had to go.

Executive director Michael Kaiser said: "We are opening a huge, new and complex building, and there are inevitably areas where we are encountering unexpected obstacles.

"We have had small but significant delays with some of the technical equipment, and this has had an impact on the production schedules of all the works which we have been rehearsing in repertory over the past two months."

Falstaff will be the first show
Cancelling Le Grand Macabre would "preserve the integrity of the other productions scheduled for this period and, above all... ensure safety on stage," he said.

He added: "The cancellation of a production is far from an ideal situation.

"Nonetheless, we are opening the Royal Opera House exactly when we said we would."

The opera, described as a "comic apocalypse for the new fin-de-siecle", is a sex comedy featuring soprano policeman, which was first seen in Salzburg two years ago.

People who have booked tickets for it - it was not sold out - have been asked to return them for a full refund. They will receive a letter in the next few days.

The more traditional Verdi's Falstaff on 6 December will be the public's first chance to see the new building in all its glory.

On Monday, Cherie Blair was at the House to see the first performance on the new stage.

On Tuesday construction workers and technicians who worked on the building in Covent Garden joined local residents for a preview performance.

Tony Christoforu, a drywall fixer of partitions and ceilings, said: "I've been working on it for three years and as a foreman for the past 10 months. I often felt it was so complicated it would never be finished what with heritage officials telling us what we could and couldn't do."

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See also:
22 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Cherie lifts curtains on Opera House
28 Sep 99 |  Entertainment
Rush for Royal Opera tickets
19 Sep 99 |  Education
Primary pupils get top billing

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