Originally created 10/06/04

People in the News

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - Opera in Denmark has a new home after a wealthy businessman signed over a $417 million opera house on Copenhagen's waterfront to the government.

Maersk Mc-Kinney Moeller, the 91-year-old Danish billionaire and former chairman of A.P. Moeller-Maersk group, urged the government during a brief ceremony Friday to take good care of the opera house.

"I personally wish you luck and beg you to take good care of the gift in a dignified way," Moeller told Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The first performance - Giuseppe Verdi's "Aida" - will be presented in January.

"We promise to take good care of this magnificent present," Fogh Rasmussen said after signing the ownership documents.

The sleekly modern opera hall - with its bubble-faced front and four-story foyer - was designed by Danish architect Henning Larsen.

"I think that the architect and the others involved have created a fabulous house," Moeller said. "I hope that most people will share this opinion."

The new opera hall will be part of the state-run Royal Theater, the city's playhouse that dates back to 1770 and is the former home of the national opera house.

The cost to run the new opera house will be about $23 million a year, a tab the government will pick up.

A philanthropist, Mc-Kinney Moeller has paid for several projects in Denmark, including the restoration of Copenhagen's 17th-century fortifications, vintage ships, statues and old buildings.

In 2003, Mc-Kinney Moeller stepped down as chairman of A.P. Moeller-Maersk, which controls the Maersk Sealand shipping company, a shipyard, an airline and holds the rights for oil and gas drilling along the North Sea continental shelf in Danish waters.


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - More than 40,000 Malaysians have watched Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" after authorities in this mostly Muslim nation allowed the movie to be shown to Christians in designated movie theaters.

Crowds at the screenings, which are slated to run for nearly two months until the end of October, might have been larger if some Christians hadn't already seen the movie on pirated videodiscs or in neighboring countries, Wong Kim Kong, secretary general of the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, a church grouping responsible for ticket sales, said Monday.

The Home Ministry ruled that non-Christians should be barred from screenings, but the restriction hasn't been strictly enforced, Wong said. He noted that some people might have asked their Christian friends to help them get tickets, which are sold only through churches.

"Each individual should be responsible for his own actions," Wong told The Associated Press. "If non-Christians are comfortable with watching this film, we can't stop them from doing so."

Nearly two-thirds of Malaysia's 25 million people are ethnic Malay Muslims. Most of the rest are ethnic Chinese and Indians, whose faiths include Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. Proselytizing of Muslims by members of other religions is prohibited.

Malaysian officials announced in July that the film could be shown in 18 theaters nationwide, following requests from churches, but publicity such as posters and movie trailers were forbidden.

"We're satisfied because Christians in Malaysia have the opportunity to watch this movie, which they say has helped them revitalize their faith," Wong said.

Movies screened in Malaysia must abide by a censorship code that forbids sex and provocative handling of topics such as race and religion. Banned films have included Steven Spielberg's Holocaust film "Schindler's List" and "The Prince of Egypt," a 1998 animated epic about Moses.


SINGAPORE - Fantasia Barrino, winner of the third season of the popular Fox TV "American Idol" singing competition, wants people to remember her name.

"I'm not going to let people forget me. I'm going to be on cereal boxes, milk cartons and ice-cream trucks," said Barrino, who now goes by her first name.

"I don't want everybody to see me as the 'American Idol' - I want them to see me as Fantasia," she told reporters in Singapore, where she and other former "American Idol" contestants were scheduled to perform Tuesday.

"I think it's just about pushing past 'American Idol' and going on with your career," said the singer from High Point, N.C.

"American Idol" is a popular TV show in Singapore, the tour's only stop outside the United States. LAMC Productions, a promoter in the wealthy Southeast Asian city-state, said it won rights to host the event after an intense bidding competition.


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PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. - Dolly Parton's Dollywood theme park, Tennessee's biggest tourist attraction, is getting bigger.

The amusement park, located in the Great Smoky Mountains, will add 10 rides in 2005 in a 3 1/2-acre expansion of the park's Country Fair area that will increase ride capacity by more than 2,000 passengers an hour.

"This project will allow more people to enjoy Country Fair, one of Dollywood's most popular areas," said Dollywood general manager Barbara Joines recently. No value on the additions was disclosed.

The new rides will mix traditional midway favorites with unique attractions, such as an airplane-style ride that allows passengers to create their own experience.

Most will allow parents and children to experience the ride together. Several existing rides will be retired to make way for the additions.

Construction is to begin in November with completion prior to the park's seasonal opening March 26.

Open nine months of the year, Dollywood is a 125-acre park offering more than 30 rides, crafts and musical attractions. It draws more than 2.2 million visitors annually, second in visitation in Tennessee only to the neighboring Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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