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Tuesday, June 30, 1998 Published at 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK


Royal Opera 'needs more funds'

The Covent Garden home of the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet

The long-awaited Eyre Report on the Royal Opera House has rejected privatisation or combining it with the English National Opera and has called instead for more funds for the theatre to continue.

But the board of the Royal Opera House has been criticised for "arrogance and presumption" in its use of public money.

The author of the report, Sir Richard Eyre, also said an artistic director should be appointed as soon as possible and that greater access by all classes of people was vital. Sir Richard is himself a former Royal National Theatre artistic director.

The report also recommended that the Royal Ballet should have equality with the Royal Opera in its use of the Covent Garden Theatre, due to be reopened at the end of next year after a £200m re-fit.

Sir Richard said: "The Royal Opera House must develop a sense of respect for accountability for public funds and a more constructive relationship with the Arts Council."

He added that planning procedures had been "deeply flawed", appointments "too haphazard" and efforts to extend access "half hearted at best".

"The Board of the Royal Opera House has had tremendous success in fundraising, but in other areas of responsibility, particularly in exercising proper control over the executive, it has failed," he said.

Elitism a turn off

"It remains a fact that many people have an indifference to these art forms bordering on distaste.

"They are put off, much as people are put off hunting, not by the activity itself, as by the perceived behaviour, or the social class, of some of its enthusiasts."

The report said greater access for the all sections of society could only be achieved by reducing ticket prices. Sir Richard also suggested that the new Covent Garden should not be used by just a privileged elite.

More funds

But the report said that the UK should have a first rank opera house. And as the new Covent Garden building was likely to incur greater running costs, more money should be put forward.

"My belief is that at the end of this process, additional funds will be needed, if the companies are fully to deliver the objectives of this review," he said.

Sir Richard's report comes at the end of a long saga of financial mismanagement and personal bickering, which at the end of last year led a parliamentary select committee to suggest: "We would prefer to see the House run by a philistine with the requisite financial acumen than by the succession of opera and ballet lovers who have brought a great and valuable institution to its knees."

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