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Last Updated: Friday, 26 November, 2004, 13:40 GMT
Terfel applauds 'stunning space'
Bryn Terfel
Opera star Bryn Terfel has been a driving force behind the centre
Opera star Bryn Terfel describes the main stage at the Wales Millennium Centre as "a stunning space".

Terfel, who is to star in the gala show in front of the Queen on Sunday, said his first view of the 1,900-seat theatre took his breath away.

The singer has been at the front of the campaign to get the centre in Cardiff Bay. He has been instrumental in the opening night's tribute to Dame Shirley Bassey, and four other Welsh performing greats.

"The first time I walked into the theatre was last night and it absolutely took the wind out of my sail," said Terfel.

He hoped the seats would "hopefully be sold out for every kind of performance."

To be honoured at home is, for me, much more special.
Dame Gwyneth Jones

The singer, who has been closely involved in the construction stages of the project, said Wales as a nation "has to embrace this new art centre and they have to keep in touch also with what kind of artists are appearing and what kind of companies are here"

He said he regularly drove five hours each way to see a rugby match in the Welsh capital and he hoped arts audiences would similarly drive for hours to see productions in Cardiff Bay.

Terfel said the centre would provide a magnificent home for all kinds of performances, not just the Welsh National Opera.

Friday night's opening will include tributes to Dame Shirley Bassey, actress Sian Phillips, soprano Dame Gwyneth Jones, composer Alun Hoddinott and the late Richard Burton.

Terfel copied the idea of awarding five luminaries from a similar concept in America.

"We were awarding five people last night who have had a professional career with dedication and have given their services to so many things and of course that's the idea we have for this first night tonight".

Front of the Wales Millennium Centre
The centre is seen as the new focal point for Welsh culture

Dame Gwyneth said she had received awards from all over the world, but "to be honoured at home is, for me, much more special."

Actress Sian Phillips said she felt similarly honoured by the "Cymry (Welsh people)in the World" celebration.

"Tonight we don't have to do anything - we are going to be entertained," she said.

Dame Shirley who grew up a stone's throw from the imposing new centre, said: "Well done Wales. Well done Cardiff".

Actor Jonathan Pryce, who will be among the entertainers in the gala show, said it was important to support the centre.

"What we have got is a focal point for every aspect of our cultural life - music, dance and theatre," he said.

"It's going to be sensational".

Welsh National Opera said it had sold 60% of the seats to its coming season.


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