Royal Opera House’s North West plans criticised

Proposed opera outpost 'bad for the arts'

The Royal Opera House (ROH) has suffered a potential setback to its plans to establish a venue in Manchester after The Lowry arts complex called for the proposal to be abandoned.


Chairman of trustees for the Salford-based centre, Rod Aldridge, sent an open letter to the ROH calling for the current scheme, which he called ‘bad for the city, bad for the arts and bad for the taxpayer’, to be scrapped. Although supporters of the plans have championed the benefits on offer for Manchester’s orchestras if they become involved with ROH productions, Aldridge claims the scheme will damage existing arts provision in the area.

In particular, he raised concerns about the financial impact caused by the potential loss of two of its regular performers, Opera North and the Birmingham Royal Ballet. The Lowry opened nine years ago at a cost to the public of £116m.

Proposals for a North West outpost of Covent Garden were confirmed last October when representatives revealed they were in talks with Manchester’s Palace Theatre. Aldridge says he is not opposed to the company coming to the city, outlining an alternative ‘dual-house’ proposal in which The Lowry would be home to dance, including the Royal Ballet.


The ROH said it was disappointed by the criticism, and Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, backed the plan: ‘The potential to transform the artistic life of the North West is widely recognised and, although we recognise The Lowry’s concerns, we will continue to work with them and other major arts bodies to drive forward our ambition for the future,” he told the BBC.