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Monday, 22 April, 2002, 01:11 GMT 02:11 UK
Landmark music venue opens in Rome
Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi (left) and Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni
Italy's president and Rome's mayor were among the celebrities at the inauguration
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By David Willey
BBC Rome correspondent

The largest music complex in Italy - the first in Rome for nearly 70 years - has finally opened.

The three concert halls, an open-air arena and recording studios in a 20-hectare park replace the city's last auditorium, destroyed by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1934.

Orchestra plays at the Music Park
The concert hall will seat nearly 3,000 people
The Music Park was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, who was also behind the controversial hi-tech Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris.

The new music complex is expected to change the musical life of the Italian capital.

The city's Santa Cecilia music conservatory will take over the running of the Music Park, which is built near the old Olympic village constructed for the 1960 Games.

The president of Italy attended the opening concert, which ended with Handel's Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah.

Eclectic tastes

Every sort of musical taste, from classical and folk to pop and rock music, will be catered for.

The $100m-plus complex took eight years to build

Thirteen concerts were scheduled for the opening day.

Performers included the British violinist Nigel Kennedy, the American rock singer Patti Smith and the Swingle Singers, with their rendition of the Italian partisans' song Ciao Bella, which got one of the biggest ovations of all.

After a short six week season, Rome's new music complex will close down until December to allow for the completion of the still unfinished 2,700 seat concert hall.

Performers and critics praised the acoustics of the 1,200 seat auditorium in which most of Sunday's concerts took place.

The complex took eight years to build and the cost - over $100m - went way over the original estimate after the original contractors failed to meet the deadline for completion.

Extra delays were caused by the discovery of the remains of an ancient Roman farm at the site.

The ruins were later incorporated by the architect into the foyer of one of the new concert halls.

See also:

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Rome's Opera House in trouble
07 Feb 02 | Arts
Milan's opera house to reopen
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Tenors toast Tosca
19 May 99 | Europe
Strike threatens Rome opera
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