Exclusive: Covent Garden removes sponsors’ names from William Tell

Exclusive: Covent Garden removes sponsors’ names from William Tell


norman lebrecht

July 22, 2015

A sharp-eyed reader spotted that, in the opening-night programme for the ROH’s notorious rape-scene William Tell, the lead sponsors were Simon and Virginia Robertson. On the website, however, their names have been removed.

Sir Simon is a retired banker, Old Etonian and staunch Tory. The couple have been prominent supporters of the ROH for many years. We asked Covent Garden to explain the omission.

The response was: ‘Simon and Virginia Robertson were uncomfortable with the amount of attention this production received so we offered to remove their names.  They have not withdrawn their support for the production and are long time philanthropists for the Royal Opera House and supported many new productions.’

william tell2

Damiano Michieletto’s production was loudly booed, both at the dress rehearsal and on first night. The ROH later toned down the rape.




    This in interesting news: nothing will change artistic policy quicker than the withdrawal of major sponsors

  • DESR says:

    This is interesting in light of the ROH’s reluctance to offer refunds, even where the consumer is not happy with the product he or she thought she was buying.

    Perhaps if you are a ‘generous sponsor’, despite your unhappiness, you only get your money back if you can pass the cost of the revival on to someone else?

  • Nick says:

    At least the Robertsons are regular paymasters. One wonders what the National Westminster Bank thought of the disastrous 1984 Ponelle/Mehta Aida into which it had ploughed a good six-figure sum for naming sponsor rights.

    The booing and chorus of “rubbish” as the Grand March was reduced to an orchestral interlude (lack of cash was the given reason) was the tip of the iceberg as far as serious mishaps were concerned. Pavarotti cancelled the 2nd performance and Ricciarelli was a good quarter tone under the note throughout. Any new production of Aida should last in the repertoire for quite some time. This one died after its first outing as far as I can recall.

    I wonder if NatWest ever opened its chequebook for the ROH again?