Barenboim and La Scala

🙂 Italy-Belcanto >
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Please check
🙂 Barenboim’s Carmen: What happened on Dec 7, 2009? (Dec 7, 2009)
🙂 RAI: è tutt’ora impossibile poter trasmettere in diretta televisiva una qualsiasi opera teatrale italiana (Dec 2, 2009)
🙂 Barenboim Loves Chorus of ‘BUUUUU’ from La Scala’s Die-Hard Loggionisti!!! (Jun 22, 2009)

🙂 Music in Italy
🙂 Il Consiglio di amministrazione della Fondazione Teatro alla Scala from Nov 18, 2009 to Nov 17, 2013 (Nov 13, 2009)
🙂 Barenboim and Bruno Ermolli, Vice President of La Scala

🙂 Politicians in Milan
🙂 Italian 81st Prime Minister & MUSIC
🙂 Italian 81st Prime Minister & POLITICS
🙂 Criticism with/without Better Ideas
🙂 Milan Mayor Letizia Moratti Toward Milano Expo 2015
🙂 Milan Mayor Letizia Moratti, Incheon City, and Myung-Whun Chung

🙂 Stephane Lissner and La Scala
🙂 Daniele Gatti: Ma quel tentativo di Waltraud Meier, che ben conosceva le sua defaillance vocali, per me equivale a un attacco terroristico contro la Scala (Jan 11 – Nov 4, 2009)
🙂 Zubin Mehta, Richardo Muti, Cultral Minister Sandro Bondi and La Scala
🙂 Claudio Abbado in Milan
🙂 Riccardo Muti in Milan
🙂 Franz Xaver Ohnesorg, Gidon Kremer, Dmitri Bashkirov, and Dorit Beinisch (JIWON: This collection is not finished. I’ve been too tired to mention this sh*t.)
🙂 Members of Bashkirova-Gang

Please check
🙂 Berlusconi’s Minor-Scandal, Barenboim’s Cairo-Scandal, and Salzburg Festival (Jun 13 – Jul 1, 2009)
🙂 JIWON: Dear Italian Cultural Minister (Feb 6, 2009 to Present)
🙂 JIWON: Dear Mr. Silvio No.1’s ALL friends and foes, (Music & Politics) (Feb 6 – 24, 2009)
🙂 JIWON: Additional Message to Italy (Jan 7 – Feb 27, 2009)
🙂 JIWON: Howdy Partners! (Zeffirelli, Imola, Bel-Canto and Eurotrash) (Dec 16-31, 2008).
🙂 JIWON: Dear Italian Government, (Barenboim, La Scala, WEDO and Italian Wagner Festival) (Aug 7, 2008).
🙂 JIWON: Dear Italian Government & Richard Wagner Foundation (Feb 12, 2008).
🙂 JIWON: I can’t help writing… (Tristan/Scala-2007, German Sound, Wagner and Belcanto) (Dec 7, 2007)

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Italian opera houses in danger By The West, Australian – 31st December 2008, 9:15 WST
Italian opera houses in danger Chicago Tribune, United States – Dec 24, 2008

Italian opera houses in danger
Government funding cuts pose a threat
By Christine Spolar Tribune correspondent
11:31 PM CST, December 24, 2008

ROME — Opera lovers are poised for a grand, near-death drama in Italy this winter. Close to a billion dollars in government cultural funds are expected to disappear in the next three years, and the Italian opera world is spinning in alarm at its prospects.

“At this moment, everything is uncertain,” said Gianni Tangucci, artistic director of Teatro San Carlo in Naples, whose past artistic directors include Rossini and Donizetti. “We play every day by the moment—and by the ear.”

Rumors about which theaters will suffer the deepest cuts are rife, but no opera house will escape the downturn in government funds. Belt-tightening was anticipated even before a global financial crisis hit.

There is almost no private support of the arts in Italy—there are no tax incentives to drive that—and the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi warned months ago that every theater, museum and archeological site had become a luxury.

“Theaters are going to have to do one of two things,” said Sandro Malatesta, a trumpet player at La Scala in Milan and head of the Fials union that represents 90 artists there. “Keep paying wages and not have enough to put on a production. Or cut people and produce less opera or operas not as they were meant to be.”

Italy has 14 opera houses, and three of those—Genoa, Naples and Verona—are already in receivership, with debts of more than $60 million. Tangucci at the San Carlo theater in Naples usually produces six operas and two ballets a season. Now the theater will have three operas and two ballets.

The cuts in arts funding have raised tempers to operatic heights. The government has indicated all museums and archeological sites will be affected as well. Total cuts in cultural funding for the next three years are expected to reach $922 million.

Government officials are seeking ways to boost revenues at all cultural sites with higher admission fees and increased gift sales. Venice has announced higher transportation charges for spur-of-the-moment visitors. Even the ancient grounds of Pompeii have allowed new gift shops and restaurants to spring up.

Tangucci and other opera directors note that Italy’s traditions are particularly threatened by weakening the country’s regional approach to opera. The major opera houses in Milan and Rome are important beacons of Italy’s culture for outsiders, they said.

And the smaller opera houses are touchstones for every Italian about opera’s time and place in their personal history, the directors added.

“La Scala has a special position,” said Malatesta in Milan. “It has to keep its dignity. It’s a symbol of Italy to the rest of the world.”

Tangucci said the land where opera was born must appreciate its past.

“You have to remember: Opera was the language that symbolized Italy’s unity,” he said. “Every region had a dialect and language that people there understood. Opera had but one script. In a united Italy, opera was the language that everyone understood. That tells you its place as the DNA of Italy.”

Tribune correspondent Christine Spolar is based in Rome.

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JIWON: I forgot to add one article, which is from AUSTRIA. Is it a pure criticism or their cultural revenge to the recent scandal between La Scala’s Lissner and Vienna’s Holender?

All Is ‘Still NOT’ Forgiven? – La Scala’s Lissner Invites Vienna’s Holender To La Prima In Milan

MILAN, Italy _ Critics’ reaction to the gala premiere at La Scala can be summed up in one word: Boring.

JIWON: HUM… there are MORE…

La Scala’s ‘Don Carlo’ fails to excite Dec 8, 2008 / By The Associated Press
MILAN, Italy (AP) — Critical reaction to the gala premiere at La Scala can be summed up in one word: Boring. A critic for Corriere della Sera called the level of hostility “almost scary.”

Taking names: Boos, applause Dec 9, 2008 / By Washington Times
Critics’ reaction to the gala premiere at La Scala can be summed up in one word: Boring. A critic for Corriere della Sera called the level of hostility “almost scary,” Associated Press reports.

JIWON:REAL reports seem to start.

Curtain rises on La Scala season amid dramas offstage Dec 8, 2008 / By Gramophone, UK
(…) Although the opening is always a VIP event attended by politicians and foreign heads of state, the musical output of La Scala is still taken very seriously by Italians. Newspapers carried supplements devoted to Don Carlo, even printing the libretto. But few can deny that Italian culture lovers are in for a hard year. The government is looking to cut approximately €10m from La Scala’s state subsidy in 2009 as part of a package designed to save more than €900m. The dispute over pay and conditions that dragged on all autumn involving musicians, dancers and technical staff was only halted following a last-minute deal on broadcast rights. The opening night may have been saved, but the various other dramas of La Scala seem far from over.
Charles Searson, Gramophone Italy correspondent

La Scala opens season with Verdi’s ‘Don Carlo’ Dec 7, 2008 / By AFP
MILAN (AFP) — Milan’s La Scala opera house opened its season Sunday with Verdi’s “Don Carlo” and an audience torn between attending the show in glamorous attire or in modest habit befitting the financial crisis.
Under the baton of Daniele Gatti, American tenor Stuart Neil sang the title role, replacing Giuseppe Filianoti who was initially billed for the part.
The change was announced in a brief statement without explanation.
But La Scala’s general director Stephane Lissner said Sunday: “Our responsibility before the world is the best,” in remarks carried by the ANSA news agency.
The opening, traditionally held on the December 7, the feast day of Milan’s patron, Saint Amboise, drew a hodgepodge of personalities, ranging from the presidents of Rwanda and Togo, to Italian ministers and Dolce & Gabbana designers.
Meanwhile, a group of students, teachers and parents protested outside the theatre against government education reforms.
La Scala’s musicians called off a strike last week that would have disrupted the opening performance after reaching an agreement with management on their pay.

Rows ruin La Scala’s big night December 7, 2008 / By The Observer, Tom Kington in Rome

Pay disputes and government cuts have cast a shadow over the future of Italy’s most famous opera house
The opening night of the season at La Scala has traditionally been a celebration of Italy’s long-running passion for high culture – until this year. Tonight a four-hour production of Verdi’s Don Carlo, starring Fiorenza Cedolins, will grace the stage of the world-famous theatre in Milan but it is behind the scenes that the true operatics have been taking place.
A bitter battle over wages has pitted singers against backroom staff in a dispute that came close to scuppering tonight’s opening gala. In addition, the details of future cuts to La Scala’s budget have infuriated opera-lovers, ensuring that 2009 is set to be one of the most fraught years in the history of a national institution.

As opera houses up and down Italy stagger into receivership, the Italian government is set to slash about €10m (£8.6m) from La Scala’s state subsidies in 2009, part of a planned three-year trimming of Italy’s cultural funding totalling €922m. ‘La Scala must defend itself and we must convince the government to protect Italian culture,’ said La Scala’s general manager, Stéphane Lissner. ‘It’s the glue that holds society together.’

As a warm-up to the pending battle over funding, the disagreement between tenors and technicians, plumbers and prima donnas, has been a show in its own right. When a small group of musicians and singers threatened a year-long strike unless they were given a bigger slice of La Scala’s total wage packet, angry electricians, clerks and ticket-sellers fought back by taking over the 18th-century theatre dressed in vampire masks and throwing fake money from the boxes.
‘The artists have an ego problem,’ said Giancarlo Albori, a union representative. ‘If the backroom staff didn’t show up, this place would grind to a halt.’
Sandro Malatesta, an official with the Fials union supporting the singers, said they deserved more.

‘The quality of La Scala starts with us,’ he said, lashing out at ‘pressure tactics’ by staff which reportedly included threatening notes sent to performers. ‘I was scared of meeting staff in the corridors,’ said soprano Barbara Vignudelli.
A viola player who sided with the back-room employees and played in a protest concert to support the ‘vampires’, said the atmosphere had become increasingly heated in the orchestra pit during rehearsals for Don Carlo. ‘During pauses there were some extremely animated discussions, but Italians can get over that fast, and when the music started again everything went smoothly.’

A last-minute deal on revenue from broadcast rights saved the opening night from strike action, but Malatesta warned that the warring sides were still miles apart and did not rule out future protests.

Taking the protest in his stride, Lissner said he was more worried about the pending cuts to state subsidies. ‘What has happened at La Scala so far was just a clash between unions, with the threat to the opening night used as a pressure tactic,’ said the Frenchman, who once cancelled Verdi’s La Traviata at a French festival he was running when striking stage workers interrupted the opera with drums and firecrackers.

It is not only La Scala that is looking forward to a miserable and impecunious new year. The decision by Silvio Berlusconi’s government to cut culture funding comes as Italy’s theatres, museums and archaeological sites struggle to make ends meet. Venice has followed Rome’s example by introducing huge advertising hoardings in historic piazzas to pay for restoration work.
Three of Italy’s 14 opera houses – in Genoa, Naples and Verona – are in receivership, while Bari has taken 17 years to rebuild its theatre after it burned down in 1991. For some critics, 14 subsidised opera houses are too many.

Poorly attended museums must also do more to pay their way, the government has argued. Mario Resca, former head of McDonald’s in Italy, has already made enemies after being appointed to oversee government-run museums and archaeological sites. True to his business background, he plans to increase revenue from gift shops, cafes and special events, such as a dinner for 600 held in the Roman Forum last year by the designer Valentino.
The move has enraged much of Italy’s cultural elite, with one cultural association collecting 7,000 protest signatures and claiming partial victory last week after the government appeared to water down Resca’s powers.

‘The idea that culture must pay for the financial crisis is extremely dangerous,’ Italian conductor Riccardo Muti told La Repubblica, warning the government against focusing shrinking funding on big-name opera houses. ‘Musically, Italy is different from Britain, which may have many theatres but identifies with Covent Garden, or America, which considers the Met the centre for its musical culture. Italy, which gave birth to opera, is full of historic theatres and you can’t dry out the land to water two or three flowers.’
Lissner said culture simply counted for more in Italy, or should do: ‘It is less well funded here than in France or Germany, but is more important, and that’s why there are 14 opera houses.’ At one of the most famous, it promises to be a tumultuous year off-stage.

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Globe goes gaga for La Scala’s Variety, CA – Dec 12, 2008 / By MICHAEL DAY
‘Don Carlo’ beamed to 5 million viewers
(…) The shows in the U.S. were sold out, and there are plans to expand coverage again next season. Most pundits gave performers the thumbs up. The main problem, swiftly identified by Milan’s style mafia, wasn’t the way the production sounded but the way it was presented. “The music was great, but it looked like a cemetery,” said D&G’s Stefano Gabbana of the dreary set.

Conspicuous Affluence, Controversy and Catcalls for Don Carlo’s La Scala Premiere 08 dicembre 2008 / By Corriere
Upper balconies protest at tenor’s substitution. Eight-minute ovation from stalls. CUB and Rete scuole demonstrate in streets. Country’s three highest offices unrepresented.

MILAN – The premiere of Don Carlo at La Scala in Milan divided public opinion. The performance was greeted by eight minutes of applause from the stalls while there were boos and catcalls from the upper balconies for the conductor Daniele Gatti and director Stephane Braunschweig. It was clear that the protests were aimed at the last-minute substitution of tenor Giuseppe Filianoti by the American, Stuart Neill. “They must have been American-style whistles of approval”, ironised government minister Gianfranco Rotondi. One of the most applauded performances came from Dolora Zajick as the Princess of Eboli while most of the catcalls were directed at Anatolij Kotscherga as the Grand Inquisitor. The other performances appeared to split the audience. There were also mixed responses to tenor Stuart Neill. The sober set prepared in the Piermarini Hall for Don Carlo was mirrored outside Milan’s temple of music by an equally sober edition of the protests that traditionally accompany premieres every 7 December. Opera-goers were divided, too. Some had chosen a relatively discreet look, in tune with the current crisis, while others flaunted flamboyantly glamorous outfits to show that, whatever the circumstances, style should come first.

COMMENTS – Some observers noted the “pleasing” contrast between the bare-bones set and the “very lovely” costumes while others criticised the singing. For the president of the Lombardy regional authority, Roberto Formigoni, “The minimalist set is extremely effective. At the present time, I think it is appropriate. For me, everything works”. “The singers aren’t all on the same level”, pointed out Milan’s former public prosecutor and current president of the Milan conservatory, Francesco Saverio Borrelli, “but I very much liked the opera, particularly for the ambiguous relationships of the main characters”.

BOOS FROM UPPER BALCONIES – After the first interval, and again at the end of the opera, the conductor Daniele Gatti was greeted by boos from the “loggione”, La Scala’s formidable upper balconies. In contrast, the stalls gave him an extended ovation, in response to the criticism from “upstairs”. It was clear that protests were directed at the last-minute substitution of tenor Giuseppe Filianoti. During the interval between the first and second acts, Filianoti, who was in a third-tier box, left the theatre. During the second interval, superintendent Stéphane Lissner commented: “A splendid evening. An extraordinary show”. Regarding the catcalls, he said: “It’s obvious that this is score-settling over the issue of the tenor. You know what opera is like…”. Confirmation came from the upper balcony “loggionisti” themselves: “The opera wasn’t fantastic but it wasn’t one of the worst”, they opined. The protest “wasn’t so much at the artistic content as at the decisions taken in the past few days” .

A SUBSTANTIAL TENOR – The physical bulk of Stuart Neill, the last-minute choice to sing Don Carlo in the premiere, prompted various comments. “They opted for a substantial tenor”, quipped Italy’s defence minister, Ignazio La Russa, who said he was “very impressed by the set”. Marta Marzotto was unforgiving: “Some might say I fell asleep. In reality, I was put off by the ugly, overweight tenor. It’s just not possible that a Don Carlo like that could be loved by the queen”. Ms Marzotto was one of the many women who chose to recycle a dress, in line with the evening’s minimalism. “My son Matteo gave me this dress 15 years ago. You do what you can”, she said in the foyer, showing off her flowing white outfit in a swirl of glitter and white beads.

PROTESTS – For the first time since the great days of protest, students from Milan schools demonstrated in the square outside La Scala. Rete scuole students lined up with office and factory workers from CUB, the Confederazione unitaria di base union. Students and workers were kept about 50 metres away from the theatre entrance, outside the city council’s Palazzo Marino, by barriers erected by police and carabinieri officers. The workers’ banners proclaimed “Enough! Financial sharks get fat as wages, pensions, schools, health and social services get cut”. School protesters added: “They want to destroy state schools. I’m not having it” There were also about a dozen final-year nursery school students with their parents and teachers, who had come from Sesto San Giovanni. The flyer being handed out said: “I want my premiere to be full time, with two teachers, in the same classroom and with boys and girls from all over the world”.

FAMOUS FACES – The holders of the country’s three highest offices were not present at this rather restrained premiere. In attendance were government ministers Sandro Bondi, Angelino Alfano, Ignazio La Russa, Gianfranco Rotondi and Maurizio Sacconi, the ENI chairman and CEO Roberto Poli and Paolo Scaroni, as well as Renato Balestra, Domenico Dolce, Stefano Gabbana, Bruno Vespa, Valeria Marini, Roberto Bolle, Carlo Delle Piane and Francesco Saverio Borrelli. Among those who failed to show up were David and Victoria Beckham. Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s wife, Veronica, arrived with her 20-year-old son Luigi a few minutes before the curtain went up. “I love Verdi and I love Busseto” was her only reply to enquiries about her opinion of the evening and her own attendance. Regarding the prime minister’s absence, she said: “You’ll have to ask him. I’m not one of those lucky wives who always know everything about their husbands”. The heads of state and prime ministers from a number of countries – Austria, Togo, Albania, Slovakia and Rwanda – were greeted personally by the mayor, Letizia Moratti. Also attending were many famous names from industry, show business and the magistracy.

SINGER SIDELINED – The main topic of discussion in the foyer was the substitution of Giuseppe Filianoti, the first-choice artist until last Friday, by the American tenor Stuart Neill. La Scala’s superintendent, Stéphane Lissner, noted: “It’s quite normal for there to be changes of mind and personnel at a premiere. This is 7 December and it is our responsibility to the world to offer the best”. Mr Lissner then explained the purely artistic reasons for the substitution: “It’s quite normal to find these things out at the last minute. There are scene rehearsals and then full rehearsals, when the artists do not sing the whole opera. But this only started ten days ago”.

GALA DINNER – The evening concluded at Palazzo Marino, where Letizia Moratti played host to 850 guests at a gala dinner with a lunar atmosphere where an entrée of foie gras mousse and chicken in pastry wraps was served after a starter of smoked salmon tartare with cucumber vinaigrette and a parmesan wafer. The inevitable Milanese risotto had an exotic note with saffron from Afghanistan, courtesy of Good Food by the San Patrignano rehabilitation community, and there was also the equally traditional diced shin of veal with puréed potatoes and artichoke hearts.
English translation by Giles Watson

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Applause and boos at Italy’s La Scala gala opening Dec 7, 2008 / By Reuters India, India
With tickets costing up to 2,000 euros, the event is seen as the exclusive preserve of the rich and powerful.
Before the performance, bystanders watched behind metal barriers as Italy’s Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa, heads of state like Rwandan President Paul Kagame and fashion designer duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana arrived.
Under the glare of television cameras, bankers, businessmen and Italian celebrities mingled with hundreds of others in resplendent dress in the chandeliered foyer.
Outside union workers staged a demonstration and the tone remained sober in light of the global crisis, with some female attendees saying they had recycled old dresses for the night.
“We are all here for the music, for Don Carlos, for La Scala which gives optimism to the whole of Italy,” La Russa said.
“What struck me the most were the direction and the set. The performances were more than acceptable.”
With much of La Scala’s audience middle-aged or older, the house performed the opera on Dec. 4 for those aged up to 26.
The first-ever pre-season showing was aimed at attracting a younger audience, with tickets costing 10 euros.

La Scala swaps tenors for season opener Dec 7, 2008 / By International Herald Tribune, France
(…) Neill, originally the lead in the opera’s second cast, performed solidly, albeit without much style, said Alfredo Gasponi, opera critic for Il Messaggero daily.
“He did well, considering he saved the situation. There were no big weaknesses, maybe a little bit of a loss of strength at the end, but really nothing,” Gasponi said. (…)

La Scala intrigue sees top tenor replaced Dec 7, 2008 / By euronews, France
The famed La Scala opera house has often been rocked by behind the scenes intrigues which threaten to eclipse the performances. Opening night was no exception with American tenor Stuart Neill a late and unexpected substitution in the leading role of Don Carlo. He’d taken the place place of Giuseppi Filianoti who had allegedly made mistakes in the dress rehearsal.
Filianoti admitted he wasn’t at his best but he didn’t expected to be sacked. Don Carlo is said to be one of the most challenging roles in opera He said: “La Scala wanted me to say I was sick. But I, Giuseppe Filianoti, am in perfect condition.” He told reporters he felt he d been stabbed in the back. He added that he held no malice and wished La Scala all the good it deserved.
A La Scala spokesman said the musical director had full discretion to substitute cast members at any time and Neill seemed to be in better shape than Filianoti. Despite the back stage drama, critics said Mr Neill had turned in a solid performance.

Opening night row as La Scala switches tenor Dec 7, 2008 / By, UK
(…) “I have been betrayed by La Scala,” raged Filianoti, who said he had cancelled three other engagements to sing in Don Carlo. The Italian tenor added that the theatre “wants to make out I am ill, but I am fine”. He admitted making a mistake at a dress rehearsal on Friday, in a passage the conductor Daniele Gatti had reinstated a few days before. But, in an interview with the Corriere della Sera, Filianoti added: “I don’t think it was sufficient to decide that I wasn’t capable of the part.”

La Scala swaps tenors just before opening night
MILAN, Italy (AP) — The famed La Scala opera house has long been known for its behind-the-scenes intrigues — with strikes, personality disputes and artistic differences often eclipsing its performances. Sunday’s opening night was no exception.
(…) Filianoti, a well-regarded 34-year-old tenor, acknowledged that he had made errors during a dress rehearsal but said they didn’t warrant his removal.
“And anyway, as it was a dress rehearsal, I wasn’t expected to make the maximum vocal performance. I wanted to save myself,” he told Corriere.
Cella said Filianoti had made several mistakes. “It’s not just the theater that is saying it, others heard it as well.”
“Don Carlo” is recognized as among the most difficult tenor roles. Legendary tenor Luciano Pavarotti himself was booed while singing “Don Carlo” in 1982, the last time the opera opened La Scala’s season.
(…) La Scala is never short of offstage drama. A strike threat that hung over this year’s premiere dissipated just days ago after management reached a deal with some orchestra and choir members over additional compensation for recording rights.
Artistic differences and personality disputes have also been a constant problem. Most recently, music director Riccardo Muti stepped down in 2005 amid a dispute triggered by the dismissal of superintendent Carlo Fontana. Workers had accused Muti of trying to turn the opera house into his personal fiefdom, and several performances were called off because of the feud.

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La Scala Plans EU350,000 Gala Dinner Amid Lawmakers’ Protests
December 5, 2008 / By Bloomberg, Chiara Remondini

Dec. 5 (Bloomberg) — Milan’s La Scala opera house is going ahead with a 350,000 euro ($444,000) gala dinner after the Dec. 7 opening night of Verdi’s “Don Carlo,” even as politicians criticize such ostentation amid the global economic slump.
The dinner for 850 guests will be held in the courtyard and halls of Palazzo Marino, the headquarters of the city council led by Mayor Letizia Moratti, the organizers told reporters at the theater today. The costs of the event will be paid for by sponsors Eni SpA, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, American Express Co. and Rolex, La Scala spokesman Carlo Maria Cella said.

Pierfrancesco Majorino, the local head of the center-left opposition Democratic Party, is among policymakers who have asked Moratti to cancel the dinner because of the “extremely delicate and dramatic economic and social” situation. Italy, the third- biggest economy in the euro region, last quarter slipped into its worst recession for 12 years.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and soccer star David Beckham and his pop star wife Victoria may be among the VIPs attending the premiere, according to press reports.
The menu, prepared by Relais & Chateaux’s Da Vittorio chefs Enrico and Roberto Cerea, includes Milan’s traditional risotto with saffron and veal with bone marrow dishes. About 140 chefs and waiters will be preparing and serving the dinner.
“The menu as well as the location arrangements are strictly linked to the opera,” Cerea said. “It’s the one day when Milan is under the spotlight of the world, so we also want to offer some typical dishes.”

Opening the Season
The La Scala opening night, held for the past 42 years on Dec. 7, a holiday celebrating Milan’s patron Saint Ambrogio, earns the theater about 2 million euros and is the city’s biggest social event of the year. La Scala and a union representing musicians and singers agreed earlier this week on a new contract, averting a strike that threatened the opening night.
The new “Don Carlo” is the four-act version of Verdi’s 1867 grand opera that’s set during the Spanish Inquisition. It features Giuseppe Filianoti and Stuart Neill as the hero, and Fiorenza Cedolins and Micaela Carosi as Elisabeth de Valois, and runs through the holiday season to Jan. 15.
About 450 magnums of Bellavista sparkling wine will be offered to guests at the gala dinner, said Mattia Vezzola, one of the company’s wine experts. “We’re proposing a wine from 2004 because it’s one of the best years in the past three decades and it’s when La Scala reopened after the restructuring.”
Guests will also be able to admire “The Conversion of Saul” by Caravaggio, which will be exhibited at Palazzo Marino until Dec. 14.
To contact the reporters on this story: Chiara Remondini in Milan at

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La Scala prepares for gala with budget night Thu Dec 4, 2008 6:36am EST / By Reuters

MILAN (Reuters Life!) – While Italy’s well-heeled glitterati await the season’s gala opening of La Scala on Sunday, the budget-minded 20-something set will get a rare treat – a pre-season performance of “Don Carlo” for 10 euros a ticket.
With much of La Scala’s opera goers middle-aged or older, the house will perform the opera on Thursday — three days before the traditional opening date — for those aged up to 26.
The 10 euro ticket is far below the normal opening night price of up to 2,000 euro for a chance to rub shoulders with presidents and prime ministers.
“Don Carlo” is Giuseppe Verdi’s 1867 opera about a tortured love affair in the 16th century Spanish royal family.
“It is important to perform an opera like this going straight to the characters’ hearts,” conductor Daniele Gatti told a news conference on Wednesday.
Stephane Braunschweig, in charge of staging and set, said he was keeping the set simple.
“Like this more force is given to the music,” he said. “The characters are more important than the decor.”
(Reporting by Ilaria Polleschi, editing by Paul Casciato)

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La Scala, Milan, the jewel in the crown of the Italian opera scene, on the skids Dec 1, 2008 / By Telegraph, Rupert Christiansen

On December 7, the new season at La Scala, Milan – perhaps the most famous opera house in the world – is scheduled to open with a new production of Verdi’s Don Carlo. This is the most glamorous premiere in the operatic calendar, drawing an audience of film and fashion celebrities as well as huge international media coverage.

Crucial to Milan’s prestige: Teatro alla Scala

But this year the December 7 A-listers might just find that the doors of La Scala are shut. Although the place is crucial to Milan’s prestige, there is real doubt about its future funding. The unions aren’t helping – a strike last month resulted in the cancellation of three performances. The government is about to cut 5 million euros from its budget, which is already 44 million euros (say £40 million, at today’s dismal exchange rate) in the red. It’s unthinkable that La Scala should close, but clearly something has got to give if it is to carry on as an artistically and financially viable enterprise.

La Scala is not alone. The entire Italian opera sector is in chaos, weighed down by an estimated total debt of 400 million euros and held to ransom by ludicrously old-fashioned union agreements which hold managements to ransom whenever they break down. Having removed opera houses from direct state control and turned them into independent trusts of Fondazioni, Berlusconi’s government is taking a much harder line and I think we can expect some big names to go under. The Arena di Verona, popular with tourists is already in receivership, as is the Maggio Musical Festival in Florence. God knows what is happening at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, currently undergoing an extensive restoration programme.

Is this altogether a tragedy? The Italian opera scene is bloated with corruption and mediocrity, and supply far exceeds demand. Getting rid of some of the ordure may be no bad thing. But nothing can be sorted out, until the unions get real and drop their Spanish working practices.

Things are also beginning to look bad for opera in the US. The Metropolitan Opera in New York has cancelled a revival of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles and replaced it with the fail-safe La Traviata, Washington Opera has postponed a production of Wagner’s Ring and Baltimore Lyric Opera is rumoured to be on the verge of folding altogether. New York City Opera is desperately in search of a rescue plan and a knight in shining armour, after Gerard Mortier, currently in charge of the Opera de Paris, announced at the eleventh hour that because the budgeting wouldn’t work for his ambitious plans, he wouldn’t be taking up the post of NYCO’s Director – he’s now been poached by the Teatro Real in Madrid.

So far all quiet on the British front, but don’t expect this to last for long. There are a lot of empty seats around, and a lot of long-laid plans are wearily being torn up or re-thought.

P.S from Rupert Christiansen:
The good news has come though today that FIALS, the union which was making all the trouble at La Scala, has finally come to an agreement with the management. So, fingers crossed, Don Carlos should go ahead on December 7 and the Milanese haut monde can breathe a sigh of relief. / December 02, 2008 02:41 PM GMT

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La Scala, Musicians Agree on New Contract, Saving Opening Gala December 2, 2008 / By Bloomberg, James Amott and Chiara Remondini

Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) — Milan’s La Scala opera house and a union representing about half of its orchestra agreed on a new contract, averting an additional strike that threatened the Dec. 7 gala opening night of Verdi’s “Don Carlo.”
The theater and the FIALS union, which also represents some of the chorus members, and three other labor groups reached an accord late yesterday, La Scala said in a statement. FIALS, which said in July it would stop work during the first three shows of each ballet or opera, “has canceled all the strikes already announced,” according to the statement.
The premiere, held for the past 42 years on Dec. 7, Milan’s holiday celebrating its patron Saint Ambrogio, earns La Scala about 2 million euros ($2.5 million) and is the biggest social event in Milan. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will be attending, according to a report in Corriere della Sera that a theater official was unable to confirm.
The FIALS union has been seeking a bigger share of the opera house’s earnings from broadcasting, while La Scala said its finances didn’t allow it to give the artists more money. FIALS’s strikes canceled three “La Dame aux Camelias” shows in October and three performances of “The Merry Widow” last month, costing the theater 600,000 euros.
La Scala said Nov. 17 that it may break even in 2008 for the fourth straight year unless strikes cause more disruptions. It has about 1,000 staff, including part-time workers. FIALS members comprise about 65 of 135 orchestra players and 30 of the 105 choral staff.
To contact the reporters on this story review: James Amott in Milan at Chiara Remondini in Milan at

La Scala Opening Still Threatened by Strike November 28, 2008 / By New York Times, Dave Itzkoff
Stéphane Lissner, the managing director of La Scala, said he was optimistic a performers’ union strike would be resolved. (Ambroise Tezenas for The New York Times)Days away from the gala opening night of La Scala, the traditional Dec. 7 celebration of the Milanese opera house’s new season continues to be threatened by a labor dispute, Bloomberg News reported. Italy’s Fials union, which represents about half of the orchestra musicians and chorus singers at La Scala, has been on strike since July, and rejected new contracts in October, demanding a larger share of the opera house’s broadcast revenue. Management has so far refused to negotiate further. The strike has already forced the cancellation of productions of “La Dame aux Camelias” and “The Merry Widow,” costing La Scala about $772,000, and its annual opening gala, held on a holiday for St. Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan, is a substantial source of fundraising. “I’m convinced that La Scala will face and overcome this situation,” said Stephane Lissner, the managing director of La Scala, Bloomberg News reported. “I’m as always an optimistic person.”

Italian Governmnent to intervene as strike threatens La Scala gala opening December 1, 2008 / By The Times, Richard Owen in Rome
The Italian Government is attempting an eleventh-hour rescue of next week’s gala opening of La Scala, which is at risk of cancellation because of strikes and protests.
The inaugural opera performance is the social as well as the musical highlight of the year. President Medvedev is due to join the Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, in Milan for the occasion, as well as for talks on world affairs as Italy prepares to chair the G8 next year. Militant unions, which forced the cancellation of performances of The Merry Widow and La Bohème in the previous season, are threatening to strike in protest over pay, working conditions and government cuts.
Critics accuse Mr Berlusconi and Sandro Bondi, the Culture Minister, of cutting €922 million (£762 million) from the culture budget over three years as the centre-right Government struggles with the credit crunch. Italy’s 14 opera houses, which are run by foundations combining state funding with private sponsorship, received €25 million less this year than the one before — a cut of 15 per cent. The cancellation of Sunday’s gala would also mean La Scala forfeiting $2.5 million in box-office receipts.
Among the singers, musicians and technicians in revolt are La Scala’s ballet dancers, who have expressed lack of trust in the management.

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La Scala Premiere Threatened by Orchestra, Management Standoff
November 27, 2008 / By Bloomberg, James Amott and Chiara Remondini

Nov. 28 (Bloomberg) — La Scala’s opening night of the season, the Milanese social event that brims with VIPs, fur coats and diamonds, may be canceled for the first time in four decades as musicians protest labor contracts.
The premiere is a key source of funding for Italy’s most famous theater, which makes about 2 million euros ($2.6 million) from the evening gala that is always held on Dec. 7, Milan’s holiday celebrating its patron saint, Ambrogio.

The FIALS union, representing almost half of La Scala’s orchestra and choir members, is rejecting contracts accepted by about 90 percent of the company’s employees in October, and is seeking a bigger share of the opera house’s earnings from broadcasting. Management refuses to negotiate further.

“On July 23, we informed La Scala that we were going to strike during the first three shows of each ballet or opera,” Sandro Malatesta, local head of the FIALS union and a retired Scala trumpet player, said in an interview. “This also applies to the first night and we’re ready to go ahead.”
La Scala says its finances don’t allow it to give the artists more money. FIALS’s strikes already canceled three “La Dame aux Camelias” shows last month and three performances of “The Merry Widow” this month, costing the theater 600,000 euros. The season- opening new production of Verdi’s “Don Carlo” is now at risk.

La Scala is no stranger to labor protests. Then Musical Director Riccardo Muti was ousted in April 2005, two weeks after 90 percent of the opera house’s workers demanded that he step down following his dismissal of General Manager Carlo Fontana. Dancers protested the size of their changing rooms in 2005, while striking musicians caused some cancellations last autumn.

‘Optimistic’ Outlook
“I’m convinced that La Scala will face and overcome this situation,” Managing Director Stephane Lissner, who was confirmed this month in his post until at least 2013, told reporters on Nov. 25. “I’m as always an optimistic person.”

La Scala spokesman Carlo Maria Cella added that no more discussions are planned. Cella said he couldn’t confirm that Italian Prima Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner are planning to attend the gala opening, as reported on Nov. 25 in daily Corriere della Sera.

Three other unions representing La Scala staff accepted the new contract in October. The total benefits and wages package for 2008 to 2011 is worth 11.5 million euros, the opera house said. The theater may break even in 2008 for the fourth straight year unless strikes cause more disruptions, it said on Nov. 17.

Blockbuster Cancelled
La Scala, which was forced to cancel a potential blockbuster production of Giordano’s “Andrea Chenier” in the summer, is trying to battle the credit crunch by seeking new audiences. Plans include subsidized shows for young people, like the Dec. 4 preview of Don Carlo for those aged under 26, and big-screen performances.

Many of the world’s major opera houses are fighting accusations of elitism and criticism of high prices as they tap tax money to survive. La Scala is partly funded by taxpayers. The cost of a good opera seat — from 180 euros to 224 euros — makes it impossible for many people to attend. Stalls seats for the opening night cost 2,000 euros.
La Scala regularly draws top international singers, conductors and directors, despite the audience’s notorious tendency to boo anyone they don’t like.

Opening Night
The Dec. 7 gala opening has been a tradition for the past 42 years.
The theater, which was bombed by Allied forces in 1943, was refurbished and modernized between 2001 and 2004. It has about 1,000 staff, including part-time workers, and 713 of them ratified the July 30 contract. FIALS members comprise about 65 of 135 orchestra players and 30 of the 105 choral staff.

The new “Don Carlo,” the four-act version of Verdi’s 1867 grand opera, features Giuseppe Filianoti and Stuart Neill as the eponymous hero, and Fiorenza Cedolins and Micaela Carosi as Elisabeth de Valois.
The season’s other new productions are Handel’s “Alcina,” directed by Robert Carsen; Stravinsky’s “The Rake’s Progress”; Janacek’s “The Makropoulos Case” and Monteverdi’s “L’Orfeo.” Moscow’s Bolshoi company is also visiting with a new “Eugene Onegin.”

Barenboim’s ‘Aida’
Revivals include Wagner’s epic “Tristan und Isolde,” the dimly lit, gray production by Patrice Chereau
and Richard Peduzzi that opened the season last year; Verdi’s perennial favorite “Aida,” which will be conducted by Daniel Barenboim; and the great Italian composer’s more rarely performed early work “I Due Foscari.” Rossini’s seldom seen “Il Viaggio a Reims” and Mozart’s classical “Idomeneo” are also being revived.
Ballets include “La Bayadere” over the holiday season, “Coppelia” and “Giselle.” Makhar Vaziev, former artistic director of the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet, will start as director of La Scala’s ballet company in January.

“I hope good sense prevails, otherwise all the employees will be hurt,” Milan Mayor Letizia Moratti told reporters in November. “As mayor, as president of La Scala and as a citizen of Milan, I can’t help but be deeply concerned about what’s happening.”
To contact the reporters on this story review: James Amott in Milan at Chiara Remondini in Milan at
Last Updated: November 27, 2008 20:26 EST

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Italian opera houses are singing to save their lives November 15, 2008 / By The Times, Richard Owen in Rome

The gala opening next month of the new season at La Scala in Milan is one of the social and musical highlights of the year, attended by politicians, businessmen and top artistic figures. Legions of music fans fear, however, that the fat lady is warming up in earnest, and that this time it is all over for the opera houses of Italy.
La Scala’s glittering moment is at risk from severe spending cuts by the Government of Silvio Berlusconi, as it struggles with a huge public deficit and the global credit crunch. Sources in the opera world say that opera companies are having to reduce drastically the number of performances and are even facing closure.

One director is even proposing that the opera houses “optimise their resources” by each staging one new production a year and rotating it among them.

The heads of Italy’s 14 opera houses issued the warning after a crisis meeting with Sandro Bondi, the Culture Minister. The list of the affected is a roll call of famous musical institutions: La Scala, the Rome Opera, the San Carlo in Naples, the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, the Verona Arena, La Fenice in Venice and the Carlo Felice in Genoa. La Scala has been going through hard times since it reopened in 2004 after a three-year renovation. Last year a performance of Verdi’s Requiem had to be cancelled when La Scala’s 800 workers, including 135 musicians and 107 in the chorus, walked out in a row over pay and contracts, claiming that the number of performances staged had increased from 164 to 273.

This year strikes forced the cancellation of performances of La Bohème, conducted by the rising young Venezuelan star Gustavo Dudamel, and of John Neumeier’s staging and choreography of La Dame Aux Camélias. State funding for the performing arts is due to drop from €560 million (£470 million) this year to €379 million in the 2009 budget.

Gianluigi Gelmetti, musical director of the Rome Opera, accused the Government of “short-sightedness”. In an open letter to Mr Bondi in Il Messaggero, the Roman daily, he said that an art form that represented Italy in the world was at risk from bureaucrats.

Sergio Cofferati, the Mayor of Bologna, home of the Teatro Communale opera house, said that the bankrupt airline Alitalia was a “flourishing business by comparison with Italy’s opera houses”. The Verona Arena was taken over by a government-appointed administrator this summer after similar moves in Naples and Genoa.

The Government blames the opera houses themselves, which it says are overstaffed, inefficiently run and plagued by strikes. An estimated 70 per cent of their expenditure goes into staff costs for 5,000 employees.

Francesco Ernani, superintendent of the Rome Opera, said that Mr Bondi had offered to hold further talks over the next month on reforming opera finance, with tax breaks for private sponsors and investors. The situation “has never been more worrying”, he said.

And You Thought NYCO Was In Trouble: Italian Opera Companies Swimming In An Ocean Of Red November 11, 2008 / By Operachic

It’s murder by numbers in Italy’s troubled opera houses. The numbers have been made public earlier today, and it isn’t pretty.
Teatro Comunale di Bologna will close the 2008 season with a 5 million euro loss; in Venice, La Fenice is down 2 million; Carlo Felice in Genoa and Arena di Verona are both in receivership; and in Naples, the San Carlo has just gotten out of another receivership.
Italy’s thirteen “fondazioni liriche” are sweating bullets. Especially now that public money will dry up — the Berlusconi government, via its Minister of Culture, has announced that government funding will drop by 17%. Even financially-healthy Opera di Roma and Scala in Milan and Palermo, currently in the black, could then begin hurting.

La Scala’s case is an illuminating one: the Milanese opera house has a huge budget, 105 million euros in 2007, 34 millions of which (there were 38 in 2008) are part of the central government’s financing package that will be cut down, in 2009, to “only” 29 million. The City of Milan gives an additional 6 million, other province and county government entities (good luck figuring out how the Italians technically run their country, the Italians themselves have long ago given up on this) give some more money and, in the end, la Scala can count on 40% of its budget to be taken care of by the government, in its various forms.
The remaining 60% of course must come from ticket sales and sponsors (among the sponsors there are many corporations owned at least in part by the government, so, again, this means that la Scala survives on government handouts for more than half of its ginormous budget). Most of la Scala’s expenses, interestingly, come from the monthly paychecks of their 729 full-time workers + 150 part timers, all heavily unionized (as la Scala’s frequent strikes painfully demonstrate).
The 2008-2009 season that begins on December 7 with Daniele Gatti conducting Don Carlo (unions willing) will mark an increase in ticket prices of +10%. The effect of the pricing spike on attendance numbers, obviously, remains to be seen.

Arena in Verona is in receivership and its “commissario”, Salvo Nastasi, is also the chief of staff of the Minister of Culture and the former “commissario” of San Carlo di Napoli. Arena suffers from total losses of 8.4 million euros in the past two seasons. Arena has 375 full time workers, and 825 part time workers for the summer season for a total cost of 30 million euros a year.

Maggio Musicale Fiorentino has been in receivership for six months in 2005-2006 and since Feb 2006, the general manager is Francesco Giambrone. In 2007, Maggio Musicale made 39.6 million euros (21.3 from Rome, 3 from the City of Florence, 1.9 from Toscana region, 3.7 from the board of trustees, 3.1 from ticket sales, 15,000 from various sponsors). But in the same year they spent 41.5 millions (26.7 for worker wages and 8.7 for productions. The workers are 483 (374 of them fulltime).

Thankfully, at least Opera di Roma under General Manager Francesco Ernani — in place since 1999 — is doing good and is solidly in the black: the workers are 630, costing the company an average of 55,400 euros a year. A single night’s show costs the company on average 70,188 euros. The government gives Opera di Roma about 27 million euros a year. The much-awaited event of this 2008 coda will be, on December 4, Riccardo Muti conducting Verdi’s Otello.

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La Scala Strike Forces Cancellation of Second Verdi Requiem with Barenboim November 15, 2007 / By Playbillarts, Matthew Westphal

(…) According to the Agenzia Giornalistica Italiana (AGI), this is the first time in 25 years that a strike has caused the cancellation of an out-of-town La Scala performance. The previous occasion, in 1982, was also a concert of Verdi’s Requiem in Parma, in that instance to be conducted by Claudio Abbado at the city’s Teatro Regio.
The company’s other performance planned for Saturday, of Mozart’s Così fan tutte at the home theater in Milan, has been called off as well.

The various unions representing La Scala’s staff are demanding a new contract with pay increases: the workers at the house complain that they have not had a raise in seven years, despite a 67% increase over that period in the number of annual performances.

La Scala management points out, however, that it is now against Italian law for any major opera house in the country to negotiate a union contract in the absence of a national contract with the same union. (The national unions only began their negotiations with the Italian government three days ago, according to the Associated Press.)

Company administrators further claim that they have proposed a scheme to compensate La Scala’s staff for their increased workload without violating the law, a plan the unions have refused to consider.

For their part, the unions, in a written statement released yesterday and quoted by the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, described management’s claim that their hands are tied by the law as “an obstacle of dubious legitimacy” and “an incomprehensible and bureaucratic denial.”

La Scala Cancels Barenboim’s Verdi Requiem Due to Strike 08 Nov 2007 / By Playbillarts, Matthew Westphal

The concert was planned as an important milestone for the legendary Milan opera house. Not only was it a tribute to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Arturo Toscanini, who was the company’s chief conductor/music director from 1898-1908 and 1921-29, it was to mark the beginning of Daniel Barenboim’s appointment as maestro scaligero, effectively principal guest conductor and La Scala’s highest-ranking musician.

According to a report from the Italian news agency ANSA, the unions representing La Scala’s back-of-the-house workers threatened to strike one week ago. Yet brinksmanship in contract negotiations is as much a tradition at La Scala as booing singers from the upper balcony — “I am always ready to negotiate,” Giancarlo Albori of the union CGIL told ANSA last week, “If they [the house’s management] want to do so, I am here; if they don’t, there will be a strike” — and as late as this morning La Scala’s website listed the concert as announced, doubtless in hopes of an 11th-hour accommodation.

ANSA’s report observed that last week’s warning of a strike followed a period of relative harmony in labor relations at La Scala — meaning that things have been quiet since the tumult in 2004-05 that led to the firing of then-superintendent Carlo Fontana and the rancorous departure of Riccardo Muti as the company’s music director. Since the arrival of Stéphane Lissner as the new superintendent, much of the previous animosity within the house seems to have dissipated and the number of performances has increased (to 273 in 2007, up by two-thirds over 2001).

The management of La Scala maintains that these are no ordinary labor negotiations, however. In a pointed, and rather pessimistic, statement issued this afternoon, the administration gratefully acknowledges the opera house’s staff for the recent increase in productivity and explicitly expresses the wish to reward its employees financially for that increase. Yet management’s freedom to negotiate a new labor contract is restricted by a 2005 change in Italian law; according to the statement, Lissner presented to the unions last night a proposal to increase compensation to La Scala’s workforce while remaining within the law — and the offer was rejected. The statement ends by saying that no change in the situation is foreseen in the near term.

Statement of La Scala Management Concerning Nov. 9 Strike 08 Nov 2007 By Playbillarts,

In announcing the cancellation of tomorrow evening’s performance of Verdi’s Requiem, conducted by Daniel Barenboim and commemorating the 50th anniversary of Arturo Toscanini’s death, the management of Milan’s Teatro alla Scala released the following statement this afternoon:
The comprehensive labor contract at La Scala expired on December 31, 2005. In March of that year, the [Italian] Parliament passed Law 43 … which places precise contractual limitations on all of the Fondazione Liriche [the public-private foundations that now operate Italy’s major opera houses]. Under those rules, it is forbidden [for opera houses] to proceed with any contractual negotiations in the absence of a national contract.
Up to today, no platform or proposal has been presented, no talks have been opened for the renewal of the national contract for the sector [of theatrical workers].
The management of La Scala, thanks to the results achieved in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons, was ready to respond, from an economic standpoint, to the great diligence with which the staff of the Theater secured a considerable increase in productivity, manifested in a notable rise in the number of performances presented, from 164 in 2001 to 273 in 2007.
To overcome this impasse, the management of La Scala thought to request, from an illustrious jurist, a legal opinion identifying some alternative way, within the law, of responding to the expectations of the workers. Such a way has been identified. The solution was proposed by the Superintendent [Stéphane Lissner] to the union organizations on the evening of November 6.
Today the management of the theater does not understand the reasons why the response to this proposal has been negative. Nor do we see in the near term any change on the horizon.

— The Management of the Teatro alla Scala (translated by Matthew Westphal)

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Daniel Barenboim Appointed Principal Guest Conductor at La Scala May 15, 2006 / By Playbillarts, Vivien Schweitzer

Daniel Barenboim will be principal guest conductor at La Scala for the next five to six years, reports the Associated Press. The announcement was made today in Milan and confirmed that Barenboim will not replace Riccardo Muti as music director.
Barenboim said at the press conference, “There is no title, there’s no contract, there’s nothing. And because of this, there’s everything,” according to the AP. Muti, 64, had been music director of La Scala since 1986 but resigned a year ago citing “hostility” from the opera house’s orchestra and staff over soured labor negotiations and canceled performances.
Frenchman Stéphane Lissner, who has been general and artistic director since last May, said the search will continue for a music director, stressing that several years are usually needed to make such an appointment.
Barenboim will inaugurate his partnership with La Scala with Verdi’s Requiem Mass in November 2007 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Arturo Toscanini. He will conduct at least two opera productions each season for La Scala, starting with Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde in December 2007; he will complete the Ring cycle in 2011.

Recriminations fly as crisis engulfs La Scala: ‘Dictator’ musical director spoiling show, Zeffirelli tells the Guardian Mar 3, 2005 / By Guardian, John Hooper in Rome

It is the most fabled opera house in the world, whose reopening was lauded as one of the big events in music. Yet just three months later, La Scala is being paralysed by a crisis of Verdian theatricality that has led to rebellion and strikes, and is now prompting a head on clash between two of the titans of contemporary opera.
From his tranquil villa-cum-studio near Rome, Franco Zeffirelli has watched the goings-on in Milan with growing alarm. In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, the film, television and opera director poured out his anger in a ferocious attack on Riccardo Muti, La Scala’s musical director, whom he claims is entirely responsible for the theatre’s plight.
Describing the conductor as “drunk with himself, drugged by his own art and his own personal vanity; he can only talk about himself, he’s become a caricature of a conductor”, he said La Scala’s programme had “one horrendous production after another: constipated, anal, with no explosion of vitality on stage”.

Last year the conductor, a legendary perfectionist, was involved in a raging controversy in London when he scrapped a production at the Royal Opera House a month before curtain-up rather than agree to changes in the set that would have meant replacing solid brick walls with cloth drapes.
“The problem with Muti is that he wants to be the absolute dictator of La Scala – and he is succeeding,” said Zeffirelli. “It’s unprecedented, unbelievable.”

A long-brewing row between the conductor and the previous general manager, Carlo Fontana, came to a head last week when the governing board of La Scala dismissed its administrator, citing unexplained “differences” with Muti.
The board said there was an urgent need to “unify the theatre’s management”, which had been split for almost two years by differences over the programme. The staff voted by 800 to none, with three abstentions, for industrial action that has already forced the scrapping of two operas in the current season.
After sacking Fontana, the board named as his successor Mauro Meli, a former general manager of the Cagliari Opera House in Sardinia. Meli was appointed artistic director of La Scala after an earlier crisis in 2003 and was widely seen as Riccardo Muti’s choice to take over as general manager.
In an interview with the Guardian in January, the conductor had hinted at imminent victory. “The battle is not over completely, but I am at a good point,” he said. Zeffirelli said Muti would now be free to pick next season’s conductors and operas. “He can’t be the general manager and decide the programme of the season all alone,” said Zeffirelli, who has directed most of the world’s greatest opera singers in a career starting in the 1950s and who last year received a British knighthood for his services to the arts. He said the main reason for the latest crisis was that the ousted general manager had “wanted more popular pieces and Muti didn’t find popular pieces attractive”.

The only really well-known opera due to be performed at La Scala’s principal theatre, in the centre of Milan, during the current season is Zeffirelli’s own production of La Bohème, which dates back some 40 years.

The season opened with L’Europa Riconosciuta, by Salieri, whom Zeffirelli dismissed as “a bore”, and includes such works as Corghi and Saramago’s one-act play Il dissoluto assolto. Zeffirelli called this move an “attempt to revive mummies”. Under Muti’s guidance, La Scala has edged towards offering a higher symphonic content in the programme – but Zeffirelli said this decision was jeopardising the uniqueness of the orchestra. “It is born to play opera. It is the best opera orchestra in the world,” he said.

Since being appointed musical director, Muti has committed himself to the great Milanese theatre to a degree exceptional among conductors at his level. He refuses to take up appointments elsewhere. However, according to Zeffirelli, his influence has been more negative than positive.
“La Scala has lost that magic. It has become the ‘vanity fair’ of a mediocre conductor. Good conductors do not come to La Scala any more. The level of La Scala has gone down the sink,” he said.
The Guardian put Zeffirelli’s allegations to Muti’s office for comment. A spokeswoman said: “Maestro Muti did not intend to reply to Franco Zeffirelli’s reiterated and gratuitous accusations.”

In choosing to attack Italy’s most respected musician, Zeffirelli has broken ranks with his own political allies. He is a senator for the Forza Italia party of Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, which controls Milan city council. The mayor of Milan, Gabriele Albertini, who also heads the board of governors of La Scala, is himself a member of Forza Italia.
Muti has had friendly relations with the right, whereas Fontana had been backed by local trade unionists and the leftwing opposition on the council.

“I don’t give a damn,” said Zeffirelli. “Just as if an actor is a communist, I don’t give a damn so long as he is good.”
He said his sympathies concerning the present dispute were with the musicians of the orchestra – “the flesh and blood of La Scala” – whose opinions had not even been sought. “They are a very important part of the creative process. They are the crème de la crème and they expect to be treated as something more than just people on the pay roll.”

On Tuesday, a meeting of Milan city council, which was called to discuss the crisis, was scrapped when the mayor, Mr Albertini, and most of the other conservative councillors failed to show up and explain the reasons behind Fontana’s dismissal. The seats in the council chamber reserved for the public were all occupied by opera staff.
Leftwing councillors have demanded a parliamentary inquiry into the crisis at La Scala, which is regarded as one of Italy’s most precious cultural treasures and is associated especially with Giuseppe Verdi whose work was entwined with Italy’s rise to nationhood in the 19th century.
Zeffirelli is not the only conservative with misgivings. The Milan councillor responsible for the arts resigned on hearing Fontana had been removed, and the leader of the Northern League’s group on the council, Matteo Salvini, told this week’s meeting: “We can’t understand the mayor’s decision.”
Asked how he would resolve the crisis, Zeffirelli said: “My first thought would be to go to the orchestra and say ‘I’m sorry, please don’t let this terrible business stain our marvellous creative relationship, let’s go back and fix it’.”
If Muti were not capable of doing that, “he should resign”, Zeffirelli added.

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