A 67-year-old woman, the mother of a dancer, was sentenced yesterday to two years by the court in Rome for a defamation case brought by Eleonora Abbagnato against the author of anonymous letters.
Abbagnato, director of the Rome Opera Ballet and former étoile at the Paris Opera Ballet, was attacked in the letters, accusing her of favouring some dancers at the expense of others.
The defendant, Giulia Di Stasi, who pleaded not guilty, wrote the letters in 2016. In one of them, she asked the Opera House's management to take action against Abbagnato: “This damn woman uses the company for her own purposes. Send her away now! Together with her business partner, they have planned to kill off the corps de ballet and create a company of their own.”
In other letters Abbagnato was called ‘incompetent' and a ‘fake blonde'.
Abbagnato filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor's Office in Rome requesting an investigation to trace the identity of the anonymous sender. The breakthrough in the investigation came when the Italian dance entrepreneur Daniele Cipriani recognised the handwriting of the first letter and linked it to the mother of a dancer who had complained to him in the past about Eleonora Abbagnato's treatment of her daughter – it was identical to that on the labels of the jam jars that Di Stasi had prepared and given to everyone in the theatre. Forensic examination confirmed his hunch and led to yesterday's conviction.
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.