Italian opera houses have been forced to cancel productions after wildcat strikes by performers and workers. The emergency action is in protest at proposed government regulations to streamline the finances of Italy's 14 state-funded opera houses and orchestras.
The plans could see the salaries of orchestra players, stage crews and chorus members being cut, limits being placed on outside work, as well as a decrease in the number of temporary workers.
Casualties of the strikes include a La Scala performance of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, conducted by Daniel Barenboim and starring Plácido Domingo in a baritone role, the singer's first engagement since undergoing cancer surgery in March.
Opera houses in Turin, Bologna, Florence and Rome have also been affected, and the opening night of Wagner’s Das Rheingold at La Scala on 13 May has been cancelled.
Culture minister Sandro Bondi has defended the government's actions. 'The love that I hold for our culture is exactly why I want to save, in particular, our opera houses from failing,' Bondi said to the Associated Press. Many of Italy's opera houses have found themselves in financial difficulties in recent years.
Critics of the suggested measures say they will have a negative effect on Italy's cultural life. 'These are things that, over the long and short term, will do huge damage to the quality of this theatre and to the musical life of this country,' Daniel Barenboim told the Associated Press. 'It is a very negative signal for Italy, speaking internationally, to make decisions that can have a negative impact on the musical life of the country.'