The Rome Opera, which is emerging from a period of great economic difficulty, has been offered a gulp of oxygen by businessman Francis Yeoh, who has given the theatre a million euros.
Yeoh runs YTL, a Malaysian infrastructure conglomerate which is an international utilities company, operating principally in England and Asia, with hotel chains, energy companies and building as its main interests. Yeoh is an enthusiastic supporter of the arts, especially music and opera, making substantial gifts to arts organisations all over the world. This donation will make YTL one of the new Corporate Sponsors of the theatre, and Yeoh will have a place on the board.
Bloomsberg Businessweek named him as one of the top 25 most influential personalities in Asia.
For me, it's a great honour to take a place on the board of directors of such a famous and important institution as the Rome Opera. I hope to be able to contribute to the extraordinary work that the Foundation is carrying out, with the hope of permitting Rome Opera to become one of the most prestigious centres of excellence in the world.
It is perhaps the first time that a non-Italian patron has helped an Italian theatre to such an extent. According to a press release Yeoh is “a friend of world famous artists such as Pavarotti, Domingo, Carreras and Andrea Bocelli”, that is the three tenors plus a tenorino, which might give a clue to the depth of his operatic knowledge. The top man at Rome, though, isn't worrying,
Francis Yeoh –said Carlo Fuortes – is certainly an enlightened patron and lover of Italian opera and singing. This significant contribution is a recognition of the value of international fame achieved by our opera house… We thank Francis Yeoh for his generosity and for choosing the Teatro dell'Opera in Rome.
Fuortes has other reasons to celebrate. After years of disastrous budgeting that brought the theatre to the point of closure, the balance for 2014 has just been announced and the theatre is €5,000 in the black. It may not seem much, but when compared with the €13 million loss the previous year, it is a minor miracle. Staffing costs have been slashed by 15% (an equivalent of €6 million) and ticket sales went up by quarter of a million.
The Mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino, said,
We posed a major challenge for renewal and growth, and the results today today will encourage Rome Opera to move forward.
Thanking the trade unions, who made significant concessions last year, and Fuortes, he said that Rome Opera was regaining its worn luster,
“…returning to become an ambassador for the city of Rome.”
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.