In Denmark, Philanthropist Hands Over New Opera House to Government
Monday, October 04, 2004
By Jan Olsen
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) ó Opera in Denmark has a new home after a wealthy businessman signed over a 2.5 billion-kroner (336 million euro, US$417 million) opera house on Copenhagen's waterfront to the government Friday.
MÊrsk Mc-Kinney M¯ller, the 91-year-old Danish billionaire and former chairman of A. P. M¯ller-MÊrsk group, urged the government during a brief ceremony to take good care of the opera house.
"I personally wish you luck and beg you to take good care of the gift in a dignified way," M¯ller told Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
The first show ó Giuseppe Verdi's Aida ó will be held in January.
"We promise to take good care of this magnificent present," Fogh Rasmussen said after signing the ownership documents.
The sleekly modern opera hall ó with its bubble-faced front and four-story foyer ó was designed by Danish architect Henning Larsen, who created the Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry building in Riyadh in the early 1980s and the Danish Design Center, which opened four years ago in Copenhagen.
"I think that the architect and the others involved have created a fabulous house," M¯ller said. "I hope that most people will share this opinion."
The new opera hall will be part of the state-run Royal Theater, the city's playhouse that dates back to 1770 and is the former home of the national opera house.
The cost to run the new opera house will be about 140 million kroner (19 million euros, US$23 million) a year, a tab the government will pick up.
A philanthropist, Mc-Kinney M¯ller has paid for several projects in Denmark, including the restoration of Copenhagen's 17th-century fortifications, vintage ships, statues and old buildings.
In 2003, Mc-Kinney M¯ller stepped down as chairman of A. P. M¯ller-MÊrsk, which controls the Maersk Sealand shipping company, a shipyard, an airline, and holds the rights for oil and gas drilling along the North Sea continental shelf in Danish waters. www.operaprojektet.dk
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