Nov 232013
Members of Rome Opera's orchestra and chorus protest outside Campidoglio

Mem­bers of Rome Opera’s orches­tra and chorus protest out­side Campidoglio

After yesterday’s meet­ing between uni­ons and Rome City Coun­cil at Camp­idoglio, a union rep­res­ent­at­ive said that there was “zero chance that Ernani would go ahead, either for 27 Novem­ber [the open­ing of the opera sea­son] or the sub­sequent performances”.

Massive job losses are expec­ted at Rome Opera after it was announced that the theatre would go into receiv­er­ship after debts of 29 mil­lion euros ($39m) at the end of 2011, were announced. As the recent Bray Law states that if a theatre goes into receiv­er­ship, 50% of admin­is­trat­ive and tech­nical posts must be axed, the uni­ons are on the side of theatre dir­ector Catello De Mar­tino for maybe the first time.

The Rome Opera receives a very gen­er­ous local sub­sidy from the City Coun­cil, but the amount isn’t decided on until Novem­ber, just before the sea­son is about to open, a ridicu­lous situ­ation that means that budget­ing has to be based upon the sum received the pre­vi­ous year. This year, the Coun­cil has decided to reduce its con­tri­bu­tion by 2.5 mil­lion euros, which has fur­ther added to the theatre’s debt. How­ever, in recent years, the Rome City Coun­cil increased its sub­sidy by a third to help pull the theatre out of debt, yet instead the theatre has dived fur­ther into the red. It is estim­ated that the Rome Opera owed 33 mil­lion euros at the end of 2012, of which almost €10m are owing to the theatre’s suppliers.

There has been an expo­nen­tial increase in cer­tain costs: trans­port and porter­age has shot up from €387,000 in 2010 to over a mil­lion in 2012; ‘other ser­vices’ have passed from €4m to €6m. It seems that the theatre wasn’t try­ing all that hard to rein in its spending.

Rome Opera Theatre is a long way from cov­er­ing its costs with tick­ets and sea­son ticket sales bring­ing in just €7.3m, eight times less than the cost of the productions.

Com­pare Rome with Milan’s receives €27m from private spon­sors, whereas Rome has €3; 17,000 sea­son tick­ets hold­ers against Rome’s 3,000; €30m in tick­ets sales against €1m. Maybe this is a cruel com­par­ison, after all, has a world-wide repu­ta­tion which helps in attract­ing spon­sors and busi­ness cli­ents. Let’s look at Naples then, where the City Coun­cil give Teatro San Carlo €1 a year, against Rome’s €20. Or what about Venice’s which puts on 114 opera per­form­ances a years, com­pared with Rome’s 51 — though Rome does have the sum­mer sea­son at the Cara­calla Baths which adds to the annual total. Whatever, some­thing is cer­tainly going wrong some­where. That’s what is hoped an external com­mis­sion will be able to find out.

There is also men­tion by the theatre’s work­ers of a plot against the theatre. Theatres who bal­ance their books for three con­sec­ut­ive years receive a 5% bonus from the Theatre Per­form­ance Fund; the uni­ons argue that only cre­at­ive account­ancy by La Scala and oth­ers, allow them to appear ‘virtuous’.

Then there’s talk about a plot against . Dur­ing a tele­vi­sion spe­cial about the crisis led by journ­al­ist Bruno Vespa, he asked, “Who wants to get rid of Muti?” The ques­tion didn’t get any answers, but an Italian blog sug­gests that La Scala are jeal­ous of the suc­cess Muti has enjoyed in Rome. It was the orches­tra at La Scala who pushed for the con­ductor to leave his post as musical dir­ector of the Mil­anese opera house and a no-confidence motion was voted for in 2005. In fact, when Muti con­ducts at Rome the theatre is said to be sold out, whereas this is not the case with many other pro­duc­tions. Il Cor­ri­ere della Sera says, “Muti is the cherry on the cake, with him everything works per­fectly. For the rest of the year, the theatre limps along.”

The paper concludes,

If the next Board of Gov­ernors really care for the theatre, they will put together a team of pro­fes­sion­als, ready to work hard. To work in a theatre you must love it, attend the per­form­ances, live and breath it. Cer­tain sec­tors of the theatre func­tion well: the artistic dir­ec­tion, the cos­tume and scenery depart­ments, and there have been improve­ments in both the orches­tra and the chorus. Muti is only the icing on the cake — under­neath the icing a lot of dust has gathered.

  3 Responses to “Riccardo Muti’s Ernani cancelled amid chaos at Rome Opera”

  1. Tragedy? or Travesty?

  2. sorry, what do you mean by Bray Law?
    Please let me know
    Wil­liam Henry Kleckner

    • The Legge Bray, as it says above, states that “if a theatre goes into receiv­er­ship, 50% of admin­is­trat­ive and tech­nical posts must be axed”. It is an attempt to avoid con­tinu­ally throw­ing money at cer­tain theatres to bail them out. Italy has many opera houses with expens­ive sea­sons of opera, con­certs, bal­let etc which is only pos­sible through gov­ern­ment sub­sidy, but many of these houses were (are) run very badly and inef­fi­ciently. Min­is­ter Bray was try­ing to make these organ­iz­a­tions more responsible.

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