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Breaking: Florence to abolish ballet, cut more musicians

The latest summary of the disintegration of the Maggio Musicale:

- ballet abolished

- orchestra cur from 115 musicians to 96

- chorus from 98 to 72.

Details to be announced later today by Commissioner Francesco Bianchi.  Here’s what we have so far.


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  1. This is not only due to government cuts, but also to the fact that appointments have been very often decided on political basis or if you are a relative of someone else, not on merit. The result is under our eyes right now.

  2. David Catcher says:

    -The real problem is, as always, the hundreds of people in administration doing the job that it is usually done by 5 people in normal European or American theatres. If you have ever worked in an Italian opera house you know what I mean. And this mirrors the general problem of Italian administration, which resulted in the current and ongoing Financial crisis.
    These people have a regular salary of 2000 euros a month plus benefits, and most of the time they are on their computers or having 100 coffee breaks in one morning. It is not a stereotype.
    Union in Italy seem just to provide workers with legal reasons of why they don’t have to do this and that.
    -Maestro Zubin Mehta has been a part of the Maggio Musicale for ages, why does he wake up and smell bad administration just now? more importantly, did he ever consider cutting down his million euros annual salary to help the institution? i am sure he could have easily compensated with the generous fees he collects everywhere in the world, including his opera recordings with great artists like Bocelli.

    • Generalizations are always a danger. Some Opera Houses are like David Catcher says, some are not. Some Opera houses are a reservoir of votes for political parties, I give you a job and I vote your name. Anyway general crisis is determined by more serious and more documented issues. Zubin Mehta cut 15% of his salary, may be not enough but he did this.

      • David Catcher says:

        I agree with Mr Parisi.
        It’s very interesting to know that the Teatro Massimo in Palermo has just announced that the great and triumphally announced Complete Ring Cycle, a new production from Graham Vick, is being cut after the recent Die Walkure, which means that Siegfried and Goettedammerung are postponed indefinitely.
        Now, here is an example of bad administration: in the middle of general economic crisis, what does a theatre in Sicily do? well, of course it programs a whole new production of an entire Ring cycle with a famous and expensive British director, engaging an all-foreigners cast. And all in the same season.
        How can I go and criticize the Government for cutting down this theatre when clearly the poeple at the top of the theatre could not come to their senses and did not manage to plan a season within their financial means (limite) and their artistic reach (which is wonderful and looked-down at).
        About Zubin Mehta, it is a fact that if you go on programming and playing Rosenkavalier and Frau ohne Schatten to empty houses just because you want to have another go at these titles instead of understanding what’s best for the theatre and the city in which you supposedly live, you are at least partially to blame. No wonder the pinnacle of Maggio Musicale was when Muti, then a young and relatively unkown conductor, used to plan new and daring readings of Italian and French repertoire instead of yet another Wagner ring or Strauss over-expensive operas.

  3. An early incarnation of your blog post said there was an “orchestra cur”. Cur? Ah, it’s a dog’s life sometimes!

  4. While some theatre administrations are over populated, I’ve found that in many cases the artistic directors are no longer working in the theatres, are called consultants and work at home. Many executives are very serious, well qualified and trying to do good jobs in spite of the obstacles. Productions have been cut back in an attempt to balance the books. If the government paid the subsidies on time, the theatres wouldn’t need to ‘borrow’ money from the banks, which eats up one or two productions in a season. It would be great if the theatres could put the subscription money into the bank to earn some interest, instead of having to cover the late arrival of the subsidies. Ann Summers Dossena

  5. PK Miller says:

    Without knowing all the details it seems to be typical of what we see here in America: the arts are the first cut. And, of course, it’s the little people who get cut not the Deputy Assistant Associates reporting to Assistant Associate Deputies reporting to Associate Assistant Deputies etc., etc. It reminds me of a criticism some of us dared to voice years ago about The Met. The Met engaged superstars–Pavarotti, Sutherland, Horne, Milnes, et al, at astronomical salaries leaving little $$$ to round out the cast.

  6. I sang last year (October) with the wonderful Maggio Musicale orchestra as their soloist. I know it’s bad taste and probably not very politically correct to talk about money in a public forum, but I will here. Although I actually CUT my price in order to work with the fine ensemble and a very interesting conductor (and work close to home), I still have not been paid.

    When I stipulated before arriving that I expected to be paid when I arrived, they agreed to give me about 1/10th of my fee when I arrived (which they did) and then the balance WITHIN NINETY DAYS. Already, waiting to get paid three months for your fee is ridiculous, but I agreed. Even after these ninety days, (back in February), I still have not been paid the balance. They have told my agent now here in May, who continues to hound them, that I will be paid “soon.”

    What kind of administration programs a piece with a soloist when they do not have the money to pay for it? I certainly didn’t have an astronomical fee and can live without it, but I consider it very unprofessional and could find it actually quite demeaning that I still haven’t been paid after all this time.

    But while I was there, I heard from musicians in the orchestra who had not been paid, as well. The administrators with whom I had the pleasure of meeting were anything but idle, and everyone I met seemed intent on trying to keep the boat afloat. So whose fault is it?

    We performed in the state-of-the-art concert house, if that’s what it can be called. Everything was state of the art until you got backstage. Front of the house is incredible, with a beautiful bar, and the seats and the front of the stage are beautifully done. It’s a shame that the backstage area is just a hole in the ground, waiting for another infusion of cash before they can finally finish the opera’s actual stage with the normalities of a modern stage – the mechanics of at least the 20th century. There are no flies (as in, flying in and out curtains and set pieces), there are no traps nor hydraulics – there is not even the stage floor – just a big hole back there. We are not talking about something envisioned as a concert hall – this was supposed to be the new opera house. You walk down a set of metal stairs to “backstage” and then up another to get onstage.

    It is such a shame to see wonderful institutions like this go belly-up, but the government’s sudden removal of subsidies from one day to the next in the name of Berlusconi’s populism a few years back can not be denied as a major factor, if not the deciding one. To be told that they must all of sudden get sponsors and “go to the American system,” when they have already programmed things years in advance and booked people according to their subsidies, is not only not fair but ludicrous. Big organizations in the U.S. have well-staffed divisions whose sole business is getting sponsorship or donors, and we have a long-established culture and apparatus for giving. And the big key here is that in Italy, if you make a donation to an organization, you can’t write it off your taxes!! Who the heck in the U.S. would STILL be as generous (especially corporate) if they were not allowed to write that off their taxes? Political cherry-picking of aspects of arts funding has turned the opera world in Italy into a real disaster area.

    I would be very curious as to whether monies that were supposed to go in the till for the opera to pay for regular overhead instead went into this new opera house, which is majorly over-budget and over its scheduled finishing date because of lack of funds. I’d be very interested to see if this is the black hole all their money has gone into. I haven’t heard the new structure being talked about at all in the media.

    But I must say that I find it highly ridiculous that they program a piece with a soloist when they KNOW they do not have the money to cover it. Why not choose another repertoire within your budget to play just with the orchestra you have? At least musically, it was a pleasure to work there. Such a shame to have to hound them to get paid for my efforts!

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