*Sadler's Wells Re-opens with Future in DoubtDate: 12 October 1998
Sadler's Wells Theatre - closed for a two-year, £48m redevelopment - re-opens tonight with the Rambert Dance Company performing the world premiere of a new work, Four Scenes, by Rambert's artistic director Christopher Bruce. The piece was commissioned by Sadler's Wells and created specifically to celebrate the opening of the theatre. The official opening night will take place tomorrow, 13 October 1998.
The Rambert, a pioneering force in comtemporary dance for 70 years, will continue with two programmes until 17 October before returning 10 November for performances of Cruel Garden, a celebration of the life and work of Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca.
Much of the rest of the Sadler's Wells season is facing uncertainty with the recent turmoil surrounding the Royal Opera House. Both the Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera - itinerant while their own Covent Garden home undergoes a £214m refurbishment - were scheduled to spend the majority of their 1998/99 seasons at Sadler's Wells. But the drastic rescue plans announced by ROH chairman Sir Colin Southgate in September stipulate the closure of the Royal Opera for the entirety of 1999 as well as a halving of Royal Ballet performances. Even those Ballet events scheduled to go ahead may be in jeopardy amidst rumours that dancers may refuse to agree to stiff new contracts set forth by the ROH management.
All of which leaves Sadler's Wells with at least a six-month hole in its programming. Sadler's Wells chief executive Ian Albery has warned that the downtime could spell a £1m loss for the theatre and could force a permanent closure within months of its opening. The theatre is currently seeking compensation from the ROH and Arts Council as well as frantically trying to fill its schedule.
Meanwhile, the beleaguered Opera House has this week been thrown into another tailspin which brings into question whether it may ever re-open again. Sir Bernard Haitink, the ROH's respected music director for the past 11 years, has left over Southgate's year-long closure plans. Haitink appealed directly to the Government to overturn the chairman's decision but was rebuffed. In protest, he resigned, breaking a contract that was due to run until 2002. Haitink is the latest in an exodus of senior executives and artists.
Currently, the rest of Sadler's Wells re-opening season of dance, opera, ballet and lyric theatre includes an international mix of companies, including La Cuadra de Sevilla (of Spain), Ballett Frankfurt (of Germany), Sankai Juku (of Japan), Welsh National Opera, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Arc Dance Company, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Northern Ballet Theatre and Green Candle.
The new Sadler's Wells is the sixth theatre to stand on the historic site in Islington, north London - Dick Sadler's Musick House first opened there in 1683. The new state-of-the-art, purpose-built development will include the 1,600-seat Sadler's Wells and the refurbished, 200-seat Lilian Baylis Theatre dedicated for innovative work from young choreogrphers and dancers.
Sadler's Wells also retains a minimum ten-year tenure at the 1,000-seat Peacock Theatre in the West End where it will continue to present dance productions complementing the Islington schedule. Further building improvements, internally and externally, will take place at the Peacock over the coming months.
The Sadler's Wells redevelopment has been funded by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council.