U.K. opera boss battles to banish computer problemsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
UK opera boss battles to banish computer problems 04:03 a.m. Jan 24, 2000 Eastern
By Paul Majendie
LONDON, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Britain's Royal Opera House, reopened last month with a glittering gala, on Monday battled to banish computer phantoms that have bedevilled productions.
Trade unions urged the Covent Garden showpiece to close down until it has ironed out the technical glitches that have hit its state-of-the-art scenery and sets.
``Unless the management can send a very positive message to both the staff and patrons that all the glitches have been sorted out, we believe that there is no alternative but to close the house down and sort the problems out,'' said Gerry Morrissey of the technicians' union.
``They are losing the revenue now and my biggest concern is the lack of confidence,'' he told BBC radio.
The beleaguered Opera House's executive director Michael Kaiser said: ``We are working around the clock to solve these technical problems. I can share the frustration of our backstage crew and everyone working at the Opera House.''
Nine performances have been cancelled so far, but the management denied reports that box office takings had plummeted and Kaiser insisted: ``There are thousands of people who are coming and being entertained at the Royal Opera House.''
The audience booed and heckled an official who had to come on stage last week and announce that the final ballet of the evening had to be cancelled. A special opera production for schools also had to be put off.
The trouble centres on the sophisticated computer software that was set to transform Covent Garden into one of the world's most modern opera houses.
The computers keep failing, the scenery can no longer slide on and off the stage and backstage staff have to change the sets by hand.
The Royal Opera House, brought back from the brink of bankruptcy, was given a 214 million pound ($350 million) facelift that initially won plaudits from singers, dancers, architects and art critics.
It was a remarkable turnaround as the Royal Opera House had been mocked as an elitish irrelevance and attacked for consuming millions in national lottery funds. Management wrangling abounded while staff costs spiralled.
But Kaiser, eager to prove that ``The People's Opera House'' could change its image and attract the crowds, insisted on BBC radio that the glitches could be ironed out.
Kaiser, who performed miracles reviving New York's American Ballet Theatre before taking over the biggest troublespot in Britain's art world, said: ``The problem we have is a technical one.
``We hope we can solve it in the very short term -- at which point we will have an Opera House that will be with us for many centuries...We are making progress.''
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