I was born a labourer, before I was a singer I was a blacksmith and a mechanic. My father was a miner. I worked in the chorus. Obviously I understand the trade unions' side. But this is another story altogether.
Leo Nucci is commenting on the continuous threats by the unions in Rome, resulting in performances by the Rome Opera at the Caracalla Baths going on without the orchestra in front of a crowd of 4,000, mainly tourists. The bloated organization has been losing money for years, and, although 70% of the workers understand that there are problems which need to be resolved, the unions representing the remaining 30% are holding out. The director of the theatre, Carlo Fuortes, said,
At this point we have no alternative but to shut the theatre down.
This has been threatened many times over the past months, but talking to theatre workers I find that no one really really believes than in Italy, home of opera, that the capital could lose its opera house. Nucci continues,
When I read that the first violinist worked only 62 days in 6 months I get angry. In hospitals, the workers can't accept outside jobs, yet in the theatre… They ask me if we can do the dress rehearsals earlier. Ok, I say. Then I learn it's because the theatre's soloists have concerts elsewhere.
The unions are a lobby, and it's a case of I'll scratch your back if you'll scratch mine. But these theatres need less staff and fewer personnel in the offices. I share the opinion of the Mayor of Rome and the director of the theatre: to close it all down could be an opportunity. Though, I imagine, at the last minute the unions will change their idea and accept a compromise.
Nucci has been singing at the Rome Opera since 1967.
I lived in Rome for seven years.I've sung everything in Rome, working with Zeffirelli, Guttuso, Menotti. The last time was for Nabucco with Muti conducting in 2011. I was sad because there was talk of closure even then.
In Rome there is hardly ever a clamour for tickets, and often the house is papered or left half-empty.
There was a time at the Opera when no-one would go without a free ticket. Opera should be a positive thing for society, but in Rome there is a passion for the Orchestra of Santa Cecilia [directed by Pappano] but not for the Rome Opera…
Pereira, the new director at La Scala, puts on 268 performances of 38 titles, with 14 new productions a year, at Zurigo, a city with less than 400,000 inhabitants, and young people can enter with just a few pennies… In Rome an opera-going public needs to be nurtured, not just rely on those who go the the opening night to be seen.
In an angry interview with the Corriere della Sera, where Nucci mentions how smaller theatres like that of Piacenza, are finding realistic ways to rise above the economic crisis, and how artists should cut their cachets, as he has done, he says,
If the theatre workers talked with Muti maybe they could find a solution. As Pappano says, a theatre must have the anglo-saxon approach of the common good and team spirit…
Photo of Leo Nucci by Roberto Ricci
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.