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Dixon Jones BDP exonerated over Opera House chaos

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The architect of the revamped Royal Opera House, Dixon Jones bdp, has escaped blame for the technical blunders which last week led to the cancellation of a ballet in mid-performance and to union calls for the theatre to be shut down.

The roh has been plagued by technical hitches since it reopened in November following a £214 million refit. The breakdown of computer-operated machinery designed to shift elaborate and heavy scenery has meant long interruptions and 12 performances being cancelled. The roh has set aside £1 million to cover the cost of the hiccups.

The stage equipment was the most expensive single element of the refit. It includes lights, flying equipment, pit and stage elevators as well as the scenery handling system and cost £20 million, or £395 per square metre.

Officials at the roh last week rejected calls from the technician's union bectu for the theatre to be closed until the problems are ironed out. But the union ruled out the possibility that the architects are responsible and pinned the blame instead on the roh management.

'The scene-shifting problems stem from unique equipment which is made specifically for the opera house and is not part of the fabric of the building,' said bectu official Willie Donaghy. 'But we're working with equipment which doesn't work and we've said this can't carry on. They are going ahead by trial and error. We've asked the executive director Michael Kaiser to give assurances that the machinery will run smoothly but he said he can't do this. If the place had opened a few weeks later we wouldn't be in this situation.'

bdp's director on the project, Charles Broughton, distanced himself from the teething problems. 'The job did finish very quickly, as all jobs do, but we had little to do with the theatrical equipment. It's not our expertise and roh employed theatre consultants for this,' he said.

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