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DUBLIN (Reuters Life!) - No matter whether it's boom-time or bust, the show must go on -- and to prove it Dublin is about to open a brand new 2,000-seat theater, designed by one of the world's most prominent architects.
The curtain will go up on March 18 at the Grand Canal Theater for a performance of Swan Lake by the Russian State Ballet.
With a budget of 80 million euros ($109.3 million), the commercially backed new theater is a bold contrast to the state sector, which has been hit by funding cuts announced by the government as part of its December austerity plan.
Tickets for the opening night sold out far in advance and theater executives say they are certain there will be continued demand even as the Irish economy struggles to return to growth and unemployment climbs.
"It's one of the last things they (people) look at cutting out. It's not a constant cost," Mike Adamson, CEO of events company LiveNation Ireland, which is operating the new theater, told Reuters.
"I'm very confident of an audience. The product will speak for itself."
He argued Dublin's illustrious Gate and Abbey theatres, among those affected by reduced state sector funding, had always left a gap in the market for large-scale productions with big audiences to justify the cost.
In the 1990s, as head of a Dublin concert venue, then called The Point, now the O2, Adamson said he was constantly asked about the possibility of staging ballets, operas and musicals in the city.
But it was only in 2003 that the Grand Canal Theater became a possibility when the authority developing Dublin's Docklands area offered backing.
As part of a wider regeneration scheme, the theater was given a prominent site at the head of the Grand Canal Dock on the edge of Dublin's new financial district and architect Daniel Libeskind recruited to design it.
Winner of the award to lead redevelopment of the World Trade Center site in New York, Libeskind has created for Dublin an angular steel and glass construction, described by Adamson as iconic.
In front of it stand clusters of red poles, lit up at night, like giant bull-rushes on the edge of the canal.
Following on from the Russian ballet, Adamson promises "very diverse, family shows" and the kind of feel-good entertainment that could be just what Dublin needs.
The government funding body the Arts Council Ireland did not comment directly but referred to a report by consultants on the "economic impact of the arts in Ireland."
It highlighted the importance of the cultural sector for growth and as a source of employment, especially in the kind of "smart economy" Ireland is counting on to get the country out of recession.
"The arts may be able to play a role in helping to reaffirm and re-establish our international reputation," the report said.