Opera-tors of the world unite

Opera-tors of the world unite


norman lebrecht

September 03, 2010

A visit to Buenos Aires by the Scala company, with Daniel Barenboim conducting Aida, had the unintended by-product of some interesting discussions between backstage unions. After the talks, the opera workers called a joint press conference and issued a statement (below), condemning plans by the Berlusconi government and the Buenos Aires Mayor Maurico Macri to impose cuts on the two companies. Scala and Teatro Colon, they declared, will stand shoulder to shoulder to fight these knavish tricks. Stage workers of the world, unite!

Now, much as I deplore political intervention in the arts and the imposition of ill-considered economies, I keep hearing from singers about the arrogant and agrressive conduct of the backstage crews at La Scala. Nobody dares to complain aloud for fear of provoking a strike. Nor does any Scala intendant look too closely into what goes on behind the curtain.

Colon may be a case apart, but La Scala is ripe for reform and those who join hands with its antediluvian staff may not have the interests of opera, singers and audiences uppermost in mind.


From Sindicato Argentino de Músicos (SADEM), Buenos Aires

Dear Colleagues,

This week, the Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Alla Scala from Milan would interpret AIDA conducted by Maestro Daniel Barenboin, in the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires.
As part of the plan of struggle that workers from the Colón are carrying out, they interviewed musicians from Alla Scala and find similarities in the policies implemented in Italy by the Berlusconi`s government and in Buenos Aires by the Head of Government of the City, Mauricio Macri. They organized a joint press conference to publicize the statement you will find attached.

The Teatro Colon has been reopened the past 25th of May after arranging the main room, but its own production structure has been modified to transform it into a rent room, in order to favor companies through outsourcing, in addition to drastically reduced the number of workers, mainly artistic, a measure that the Argentine Justice rejected and the government failed to obey.

Delegate from Teatro Colón, Máximo José Parpagnoli and José Piazza and Francesco Lattuada peers, and Simone Gianni Dallaturca Groppo from Teatro Alla Scala, gave a very interesting synthesis to the local press concerning the situation of both theatres and the impact of economic policies that ignore the value of the culture as tangible and intangible heritage, and the damage they are doing when measuring from the cost-benefit perspective.


Ricardo Vernazza

General Secretary

Sindicato Argentino de Músicos (SADEM)


  From The workers at the Teatro alla Scala of Milan and the Colon Theatre of Buenos Aires




Both Culture and artistic expressions are worthy and essential social goods and access to them is an inalienable right of all citizens. This principle should be inevitably protected by political power and representatives of our governments, whatever its trend, as well as health and education are basic and constituent principles of democratic societies.

The attempt of authorities- Silvio Berlusconi from Italy and Mauricio Macri from Buenos Aires – to privatize -clandestine or explicitly- institutions devoted to the expressions of lyric art, symphonic music and choreography, are a full demonstration that they consider culture as an economic value whose implementation, structuring and dissemination should be governed by the laws of the market, supply and demand and purchasing power-dependent accessibility.

This attempt has been reflected in “standards” (laws and decrees) flawed by unconstitutionality, illegality and illegitimacy seeking budget cuts, precarious labor, transportation workers, destruction of systems of own production and non-recruitment and competition to ensure the essential historical staffing systems availability.

We declare -open and strongly- advocate both theatres which, for over a century, have been recognized worldwide as the highest expressions of the cultural life of our people’s own production systems. On the other hand, its own production system has proved to be the only economically successful model in the relationship social economic-yield investment, since its principles encourage multiplication of functions by title and the possibility of increasing the Repertoire productions whose title and rights remain in institutions.

Also, we firmly reject models of management and cultural management that were previously mentioned (Berlusconi-Macri), as well as the authorities in both theatres. The outsourcing of activities, the benefits outsourcing, the precariousness of contracts, the absence of competitions, the lack of joint sectorial and spurious spaces with activities not related at all with the function of the theatres, using configured the model imposed by authorities. This will cause the gradual and systematic loss of professional, artistic, technical, administrative and auxiliary establishments, which will cease to theaters as mere historical buildings liable to be used as luxurious rooms’ rental for events of all types whose sole purpose is the non-profit and economic exploitation.

We will not be guests of stone in defining questions relating to our work and the fate of our theatres. Throughout this conflict, we always proposed dialogue, discussion and consensus as avenues for resolution of conflicts and the come about from labour and institutional situations; but if silence and authoritarianism continues to be the position of officials, workers will not hesitate to resort to all necessary measures and all political, professional, legal, judicial authorities and media to defend not only our sources of work, but the cultural and artistic heritage of la Scala and the Colón.

Cultural workers resist -once again- being the variable adjustment of the economic crises of our peoples, produced precisely by those who today brought to the art and their expressions as a luxury good and their workers as “privileged” workers. We have access to our jobs positions after rigorous competitions and we give, daily, proof of our suitability both artistic and technical in front of professional critics and the public. By no means, we will ask for forgiveness for having special schemes work, given the unavoidable consequence on the type of activity which we carry out and the benefits that our precise work requires. The high specificity compels us to permanently enable us to achieve high performance in our work. It is time that a cultural representative understands this; it would be highly expected that this would be understood from the beginning of their mandates and not, as is the case of today -not to mentions our history- that we must explain and carry out an exhausting teaching to the representatives of our governments, theoretically educated, so that they can understand our working system and its peculiarities.

The similarity of the problems of la Scala and el Colón exposed here is an overwhelming proof that the advance of the ideology of cultural predation and the imposition of management models based on contempt for the basic rights of our society and workers are international and are part of a thought that, despite having failed miserably and having led to an unprecedented global crisis, insists on imposing economic and social prescriptions that will only produce more exclusion, more suffering and more violence

As a result, our complaint and appeal is also international: dissemination of this document is intended to alert and call to all workers of the world culture. The message is that we must organize ourselves to face these harmful politics, beyond cultural differences, and we must recognize a common enemy whose only goal is to turn the culture and its institutions in mere sources of business and profit.

We insist that cultural and artistic expressions are the heritage of us all, their preservation and access must be guaranteed by State policies aimed not only to multiply its social revenue, but to regard them as essential factors of the identity of our communities, their individual definition and collective representation, thereby ensuring the plurality of criteria and the diversity of ideas, essential conditions for the establishment and maintenance of a democratic society that prides itself as such.




  • It was not a stage workers press conference, there were musicians and stage workers.
    José Piazza (trumpet, Filarmónica de Buenos Aires), Máximo Parpagnoli (photographer, Teatro Colón), Francesco Lattuada (viola, Orchestra Scala), Gianni Dallaturca (trumpet, Orchestra Scala), Simone Groppo (cello, Orchestra Scala).
    Members of the Orquesta Estable, Coro Estable, Ballet Estable, Scenography, and other artistic and technical areas of Teatro Colón were also present. There were no stagehands from La Scala, only members of the Orchestra and Choir.

  • Slipped disc says:

    Thanks for the additional information.