Theatre in Wales

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Night at altar of popularity     

With the first night of Welsh National Opera's new production of Wozzeck on Saturday, the final block in the edifice of Cardiff's £106m arts complex fell into place. The Wales Millennium Centre, which dominates a thriving business and leisure development at the seafront, is bright, spacious and flawlessly egalitarian. Covered by a bronze shell, clad in Welsh slate and commanding the eye with a massive inscription that reads "In these stones horizons sing", the building has succeeded since its official opening in November to be all things to all men.

The Wales Millennium Centre is symptomatic of public attitudes to the arts in the UK today. No politician will admit that it amounts, in all but name, to a state-of-the-art opera house because opera is a vote-loser and the new building is not intended as a place where artists communicate their message to an interested public. No, its purpose is to serve as a democratically accountable entertainment emporium. Its very size - with 1,750 seats, far larger than most of Europe's municipal opera houses, never mind provincial British theatres - condemns it in perpetuity to be a glorified receiving house, pandering to popular taste rather than fostering an internationally recognisable nexus of local ensembles. That's why it is so politically correct: it pays lip service to culture, under the guise of a showcase public building, instead of embodying the sort of sustained arms-length patronage that results in artistic fertility.
The Financial Times  
web site
Andrew Clark
Friday, February 25, 2005back

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