Associated Press
By Hermann J. Knippertz

BONN, Germany (AP) รณ A fire apparently set off by welders doing roof repairs seriously damaged Bonn's opera house Monday [August 23], just two weeks before the scheduled start of its fall season with music by Ludwig van Beethoven, the city's best-known son.
The blaze left scorched holes in the boxy building's aluminum-sided exterior, and authorities said smoke and water caused damage on and around the stage. No injuries were reported.
The city's top culture official, Ludwig Krapf, voiced concern that equipment under the stage also might have been damaged. "We have to wait to see what things look like under the stage, because those are highly sensitive areas," he told WDR television.
The seating area apparently was unscathed.
With damage being assessed, there was no immediate decision on whether officials would have to delay the Beethoven festival set to begin September 8 with a concert at the opera house. The stage program is due to begin September 12 with the musical Fiddler on the Roof.
Smoke billowed skyward as about 160 firefighters responded, breaking open the aluminum side and roof to get at the blaze in the building constructed on the banks of the Rhine River in 1965.
Only a few workers were inside because the building was closed for summer break.
The opera house in Bonn. (photo: University of Bonn)A fire department spokesman, Albert Lehmann, said the fire was believed to have been started by sparks from welding on the roof.
The opera house, one of dozens of publicly financed arts venues across Germany, was a favored haunt of politicians during the decades when Bonn was the West German capital. The government of a reunified Germany returned to Berlin in 1999.

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