Albanian opera stars won't sing for their supper

TIRANA, Jan 27, 2000 -- (Reuters) Musicians at the Albanian Opera are refusing to sing, even for their supper. They are on hunger strike in protest at a new law which they say threatens the survival of the impoverished Balkan state's only opera house.

The new law requires the opera house to pay back state subsidies it receives in order to stage performances. But since the box office intake never covers full costs, the strikers fear managers will be forced to rent space out to more lucrative entertainment like bingo.

For the last five days the singers, orchestra and conductor have occupied the nearby Puppet Theatre after being dismissed for refusing to stage Bellini's "Norma."

"We were forced to go this far as the voice of artists was no longer being heard," conductor Bujar Llapaj told Reuters.

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