More chaos at Rome Opera which is struggling to overcome its grave economic woes, yet Riccardo Muti, his daughter Chiara Muti who is directing a new production of Manon Lescaut for the theatre, and the sets and costumes are likely to dig the theatre further into its grave with a €1 million price tag.
And the curtain may not even rise. Strikes – not uncommon at Rome's opera house – are threatening not only the usual victim, the first night, but the whole run. If it goes ahead, Muti has told theatre workers that he will leave his post in Rome and the city's mayor, Ignazio Marino, says that there will be no alternative than to put the organisation into liquidation. Unions are desperately trying to find alternative solutions, and want a meeting with Marino, which he is refusing to organise. They have ten points they want answered concerning the cuts of staff and salaries.
If Marino doesn't meet with us, the opening night will be cancelled. We don't want to strike, but at this time we have no alternative… we want him to hear the desperate voices of the theatre workers,
said union representatives. Il Sole 24 Ore quoted Marino as saying,
I think everyone needs to be responsable. In this moment of economic crisis, with fifty thousand families who risk losing their home, and 40% of the country's youth unemployed, Rome has nevertheless upheld its support for culture dedicating 16.5 million euros to the theatre during the current year. This is an enormous sum when compared with the subsidies received by the other opera theatres in Italy, and this is because we believe that it is a centre of excellence. But those who work at Rome Opera must realise that at this moment there are tens of thousands of people who are without a job, and find it impossible to pay their rent.
The production was to have marked Anna Netrebko's début in Manon Lescaut, and it is also the first time she has worked with Muti (or, in this case, the Mutis). Chiara Muti, at the press conference, said,
I have nothing to do with all this, I can't do anything else but to get on with my job… I've been here working for more than a month to give the audience an opera of the standard they deserve. In any case, work is never wasted.
Her father has not commented.
UPDATE 26/02/2014 16:16 – One of the biggest Unions says it would be “a serious error” to strike
Raffaele Bonanni, head of one of Italy's biggest unions, Cisl, says,
We won't let anyone sink Rome Opera which is an important cultural institution for Rome and for this country. We will proceed with the other unions along the difficult path to save the theatre while protecting its professionality and workers. The political and cultural institutions must to more to sort out the finances and avoid the closure of this important artistic centre. Striking tomorrow [the opening night of Manon Lescaut] would be a serious error, further worsening the position of the theatre's workers and their families.
UPDATE 27/02/201407:38 – Strike called off – Manon Lescaut to go ahead
Late yesterday evening the unions Cgil, Fials and Libersind who were threatening strike action cancelling the first night, and possibly the entire run, of Manon Lescaut, have called it off, saying they will be seeking serious proposals for the restructuring of the Rome Opera.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.