Hundreds of Christians protested against the staging of the controversial Jerry Springer: The Opera at the Wales Millennium Centre (WMC) last night.
Outside the arena, which is more used to indoor musical and theatrical performances, protesters sang hymns and waved placards in the evening sun. They aimed to show their opposition to the production they felt was blasphemous and offensive.
But audience and staff at the WMC were undeterred as they arrived for the start of the show's six-night run.
Richard Holst, a pastor at a Cardiff church who led the protesters in a final prayer calling for 'the Lord to be merciful' to the actors and theatre-goers, said, 'I thought the protest went very well.
'The turnout was excellent there was good order and I felt there was a great sense of unity in what we did. We didn't achieve the cancellation of the show but we set out to make a statement that there are people in this part of Wales who care very much about what's going on here.'
Christians, mainly members of evangelical churches from Cardiff and as far afield as Swansea and Neath, had arrived in cars and coaches earlier in the evening to register their disapproval.
But officials at the WMC disputed their estimates of about 1,000 protesters, placing the figure nearer 600. Bet Davies, an adviser to the WMC, spoke of the importance of ensuring the show went ahead.
Among the measures taken to address the controversy, she said the centre had scheduled a debate on Saturday looking at the issues raised by the staging of the opera, as well as agreeing for a chaplain to be sited in the foyer to be available to speak to theatregoers.
'We feel we have handled it very sensitively,' she said, 'And at the end of the day it's about freedom of expression.'
She added she was pleased with opening-night sales of about 1,200 tickets at the 1,900-capacity venue.
'In terms of box office we've done better than any other venue in the UK and I think for some people it's made them more determined to see the show.'
The protesters, monitored by a handful of police officers, stood about 30m from the main entrance marshalled by their own stewards in fluorescent tabards.
In the shadow of the iconic words 'In these stones horizons sing' they belted out 17 hymns including Crown Him with Many Crowns and Amazing Grace, which could be heard all the way to - well, not quite the horizon - but at least across Cardiff Bay to the Norwegian Church.
Watched by a small anarchist-led counter demonstration and bemused theatregoers, many of whom took pictures with their camera phones, they faithfully clutched their placards bearing couplets such as 'you shall not profane my holy name' before dispersing shortly after 7.30pm.
Organisers said they intend continuing leafleting outside the venue for the rest of the week.
David Barnes, 59, a civil servant and member of a Bridgend-based evangelical church, said, 'We're compelled to witness our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ, and what's going on at the Wales Millennium Centre defames his name.
'Why does the Millennium Centre contract something that's offensive to Christians? I doubt if they would do something to offend Muslims or other religions.'
Meanwhile David Taylor, 31, a library assistant, bought tickets after seeing the opera on BBC.
'I just thought it was really fun and the content didn't offend me,' he said, 'It was just entertaining - I thought it would be something to check out.'
He added, 'I think it's fair enough if they want to protest but it's absurd when there's so many more important things to protest about. I'm surprised how many people are here protesting actually.
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