Linnahall opera theater funding could come from cultural endowment

The Linnahall.
The Linnahall. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

If plans to build an opera theater inside Linnahall are agreed, the financing could come from the cultural endowment, the director of the Estonian National Opera House said on Friday. But there is still some confusion around the viability of the plans.

The cultural endowment (Eesti kuultukapitaal) will be looking for a new project to fund after 2023 when it finishes financing the Estonian National Museum and the Music Academy's new hall. Director Aivar Mäe told ERR the next project could be a new building for the national opera house. "So the money would come from the cultural endowment," he said.

Linnahall is Tallinn's former city hall, which is now closed to the public and in a dilapidated condition.

But deputy mayor of Tallinn, Aivar Riisalu, told ERR the city is in talks with private investors to turn Linnahall into a conference venue and this was the first he had heard of plans to include an opera theater in the building. Linnahall is owned by the City of Tallinn, and not by the country or government.

"It's true that the subject of the Linnahall opera house has been discussed for quite some time. It has even been costed," Riisalu said. "But with sadness, I have to confirm that if someone has made such a decision, it is not very sensible to make a decision on a property without informing the owner first. Linnahall is owned by the City of Tallinn. Before any news is announced it should be discussed with us. Maybe we would agree but then the government would have to buy it from us at a fair price."

However, Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas said negotiations with the city had already begun, saying that there will be both an opera theater and a conference center.

"The conference center will be over the former ice rink and the big hall would then be occupied by the opera house," Lukas said. "I have spoken to the mayor. But we are currently preparing the materials to present it to a cabinet meeting to which the mayor has been invited. It will be in two weeks."

Speaking to Viikerraadio, Lukas said the plan was to stage performances in Linnahall and that building a bigger opera theater by the sea could attract larger audiences, more interest from abroad, and allow outdoor productions.

He said it could still be possible to attract private investors, and that due to Linnahall's size, there would be other development opportunities. Lukas said this was the start of a long process which could take up to 10 years to see the hall reopen.

He also said the current opera house will not move. "Estonia will not move," Lukas said. "Most of the existing features would remain in the same building."

The decision to allocate money from the Cultural Endowment Fund to the National Opera must be made by the Riigikogu. Money will be free for this from 2023, Lukas said. 

The cultural endowment is created from the proceeds of alcohol, tobacco, and gambling taxes, as well as other donations. It is not tied to the state budget and is a separate fund which makes its own decisions about how to distribute its money.

It supports the arts, folk culture, physical fitness and sport and the construction and renovation of cultural buildings.

As ERR News reported yesterday, there is no money in the 2020 budget for the redevelopment of Linnahall. But the state budget strategy 2020-2023, adopted this spring, says €40 million will be allocated for the reconstruction of Linnahall into an international conference center.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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