Cash-strapped Leeds axes open-air opera event

Last year's Opera in the Park event at Temple Newsam

Last year's Opera in the Park event at Temple Newsam

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ONE of the key events in Leeds’s cultural calendar has been cancelled by the city’s cash-strapped council.

Music lovers have been waiting months to find out whether Opera in the Park would take place this year after Leeds City Council warned it could fall victim to budget pressures.

Last year's Opera in the Park event at Temple Newsam

Last year's Opera in the Park event at Temple Newsam

Now the local authority has confirmed that the annual concert has indeed been called off.

The news comes just days after the announcement that another major date in the city’s arts diary, Classical Fantasia, would be going ahead as normal.

Fantasia will be staged in the grounds of Kirkstall Abbey on Saturday, September 6, with a programme designed to offer some consolation to bereft opera fans.

A spokesman for the council said: “While Opera in the Park as a single, standalone concert is not taking place this summer, some of its traditional aspects will now feature as part of our annual Classical Fantasia event held at Kirkstall Abbey in September.

“Included as part of the line-up for Fantasia will be special guest performances and a repertoire incorporating some of opera’s most iconic and much-loved pieces of music.

“The pressure on our council budgets continues to be severe, and in this context we have worked extremely hard to ensure that people who previously enjoyed attending Opera in the Park are still able to experience a similar outdoor picnic style classical concert at Fantasia.”

Opera in the Park has traditionally been held in the grounds of Temple Newsam House in July as part of a weekend double-header with sister pop music event Party in the Park.

The council announced in February that Party in the Park would not be staged this summer as a result of funding cuts.

At that time it said a decision had still to be taken on whether Opera in the Park would go ahead.

Until recently, the event was free and drew audiences of up to 50,000 people.

Crowd numbers fell drastically after the council introduced ticket charges in 2011, with last year’s event pulling in less than 7,000 fans.

Well-known names who have appeared at Opera in the Park over the years include Katherine Jenkins, Aled Jones and Yorkshire-born Lesley Garrett.

The council brought in admission fees for Party in the Park last summer.

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