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Volume 130: debated on Monday 21 March 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what plans he has to encourage the development of opera in Wales.

The Government's substantial support for the arts is channelled through the Arts Council of Great Britain in the first instance. Opera in Wales has been a major beneficiary of Arts Council grants, which have done much to encourage its development. I hope that that development will continue.

We in Wales have an outstanding reputation for opera. Will the Minister say when there may he a decision on the future of Craig-y-nos castle in my constituency, the home of the late Adelina Patti, where prominent opera lovers in Wales, including Sir Geraint Evans, are keen to establish a music centre to train young opera singers?

Many people would like to see the former home of Adelina Patti become the centre for opera and other kinds of music. There have been several other suggestions for the possible uses for Craig-y-nos, including the theatre. Tenders for the freehold of the property are being carefully considered and we shall take all relevant factors into account in reaching a decision. My right hon. Friend has already taken action to increase the protection of the theatre at Craig-y-nos by announcing its listing to grade 1.

Does my hon. Friend know of the proposal by a private developer, in co-operation with Rhuddlan borough council, to build a theatre adjacent to the Sun centre, which would provide a home for the Welsh National Opera when it visits north Wales? Will he take a benevolent interest in the project?

We take a benevolent interest in all proposals to increase the number of venues available for the Welsh National Opera company. My hon. Friend will be aware that the proposal that he mentioned is not the only one. We are proud of the Welsh National Opera company and are anxious to see it succeed still further.

I recognise the Welsh National Opera company's contribution to opera. Is the Minister aware that Craig-y-nos is not dependent on the Welsh National Opera for operatic performances? What help will he give to sustain possible future productions and the continuation of productions at Craig-y-nos over the years?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has sung there with the Neath operatic society. Perhaps the theatre should be kept in his honour as well as that of Adelina Patti. Of course, whatever assistance is given to any future performance is basically a matter for the Arts Council.