Just in: Rome Opera, facing bankruptcy, is taken under administration

Just in: Rome Opera, facing bankruptcy, is taken under administration


norman lebrecht

November 19, 2013

Mounting losses have brought Goverment intervention as the house declares a deficit of nine million Euros. The Ministry of Culture will appoint an administrator.  The outgoing director, Catello De Martino, is being widely blamed. He was appointed by the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno. Staff and musicians are braced for job losses.


rome opera


  • sdReader says:

    They must fund the place. It’s that simple. Standards in Rome are high now, equal to Milan, as they should be, and this costs money.

    Of course the unions are nervous, but the intervention of the Ministry of Culture is not a prelude to bankruptcy. It’s more likely a belated and understandable hand-off of responsibility from city to nation.

    And you can be sure ALL the politicians will be in the house next week when the season opens with Verdi’s “Ernani” under Riccardo Muti.

    • sdReader is correct. The Rome Opera has been performing at world class levels for the last several years. The orchestra is especially excellent.

      • Janey says:

        No comment that this proves the funding model in Italy is not working?

      • Beaumont says:

        So, Mr Osborne – how many women, Asians and members of minorities play in the orchestra that you deem it fit for subsidy? And how often do they play compositions by female composers?

        • Musiker says:

          It’s an all-white orchestra of 93, of whom 16 are women (quick count) M/F ratio = 17.2%. Not a single composition by a woman has been played.

          • Marcello Defant says:

            This discussion is very interesting and instructive but I think it brings us far away from the core of the news: is it true, as the insiders claim, that there would be no bankruptcy if only the government (the same that is now putting the theater under administration) had not failed to pay its share of this year’s financing? And, is this in some way linked to the change of political party now ruling the city of Rome? Wouldn’t it be challenging to investigate on these two questions?

  • What a delicate item… Workers claim that the financial situation would be much healthier, if only the town and regional administrations had payed regularly the promised money. It seems, rather, they have been caught in the middle of some political fight, the left wing new administration trying to clear out whatever the former right wing did. The result, however, is that of further cannibalizing Italy’s endangered cultural and artistic heritage. It will be interesting to see, if the new administrator will attempt to sell the theater’s properties as a way to obtain a loan and pay off interests on that: such one-way solutions (I can see no way back) are the trend here, now.

  • Beaumont says:

    QUOTE: “They must fund the place. It’s that simple.”

    No it’s not that simple. Opera houses have budgets. Budgets are there to be followed.

    Just because you perform opera or any kind of art does not give you the right automatically to expect Mr and Mrs Taxpayer to fund your deficits.

    Whether we like it or not: all the outreach programmes, all the teaching, all the TV productions etc etc have not led to guys coming home from a day at the building site, shouting out to their wives: ‘Honey, put on your best dress – we’re going to see Pelleas and Melisande!’.

    Opera and the so-called ‘fine arts’ remain the hobby of a small part of society – mostly those, however, with good links to the media.

    Oh, the arrogance of the European arts community to believe that they have an inalienable right to have tax dollars shoved up their jaxy.

    • sdReader says:

      Ah, Mr. Beaumont, you are too rational, and possibly too American.

      Plans were made in Rome based on oral promises, as I understand it. Local and national oral promises. Theater management has moved reasonably, over five years. The unions have been cooperative. There has been an improvement in performing standards at the company. The spending has edged up, not sharply.

      Now a change of political leadership at the local level has brought in new guys with other priorities. So the deficits fall into the national lap — but that was really where they were all along!

      And yes, the fine arts are subsidized, just as they have been in Italy since the Middle Ages. Business models DO NOT APPLY.

      • Beaumont says:

        Actually, I never said that all subsidies were bad – however, I do remember times in Vienna, when it did not matter how big the deficits were, as the taxpayer was expected to foot the bill (fortunately, this ended some years ago – however a seat in the State Opera is still subsidised with € 70,- per performance, with a rumour going around that a seat in the Theater an der Wien gets € 200,- per performance).

        It becomes particularly tasteless, when some theatre/opera house heads use a certain period in recent Austro-German history to demand subsidies, as otherwise (according to their warped logic), barbarism would be the result. As if opera and the arts make people better.

        Europe is currently facing a crisis of proportions few have even begun to fathom (with the horrible situation in Greece used as a shield to avoid having to deal with the individual national crises) – carrying on like in the past simply is no option any more.

        And – my dear sdReader – business models ALWAYS apply, indeed they MUST ALWAYS APPLY: it does not matter whether you run a hospital, a school, a business, an opera house (or, indeed, if you have a family) – you cannot permanently spend more than you have in the kitty.

        This is not heartless neo-conservativism, this is plain common sense.

        • sdReader says:

          You run your family on a business model?

          • Marcello Defant says:

            If quality of life is a priority, then I believe music, and the arts in general, probably do obey a good business model. In a time lapse of a few decades money flowing into them can be seen as an investment, not a subsidy

          • Beaumont says:

            of course not (this is why I wrote ‘if you have a family’)

            Mister Micawber’s quote still stands:

            “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and six pence, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery.”

          • Janey says:

            Do you and your family routinely spend more than you have or can anticipate having in the near future? If so, I suppose I can understand your ignoring basic economic facts facing the arts worldwide.

          • Bill says:

            To respond to Janey:

            Most people taking out a 30 year mortgage to purchase a home are agreeing to spend more than they have or can reasonably expect to have in the near future, thus cbligating them to decades of monthly payments. Most infrastructure projects (bridges, roads, etc.) are financed for the same reason. Of course, there has to be a reasonable expectation of sufficient cash flows to handle the debt service. In this case, it sounds as though management operated largely in good faith based on promised allocations which were then withheld. No budget, no matter how carefully planned and followed on the outgo side, will prevent a deficit if much of the income side of the ledger turns out to be unrealized fantasy.

            Beaumont seems to suggest the government should only spend money on activities which turn a profit. It would be interesting to see P/L statements relating to the national defense, education, environment, health care, public safety, etc. Not difficult to find those who feel that no money should be spent on any or all of those activities, so long as they personally aren’t adversely affected. Those wishing to enjoy such a paradise need only ring up a travel agent and inquire about booking an extended working holiday on the Somali coast.

            Cutting financing for “the arts” (especially those which can readily be painted as elitist) may seem like an easy reaction to fiscal pain, but as they are generally a small part of the overall expenditures, even eliminating them entirely is unlikely to bring lasting relief, just as tending to a paper cut won’t matter if you ignore the stab wound that nicked an artery. And any regular donor at the blood bank is proof that even frequent losses can be overcome if the body remains strong.

  • Andrew says:

    The best thing the EU could do for the arts would be to pass more favorable laws for tax deductible contributions to the arts. Europe needs private foundations that offer incentives for the wealthy and culturally philanthropic to donate. The wealth is there. It’s inevitable that hooligan populism, Marxists and the likes will chip away at public money for real culture so they can build football stadiums, which they view as “the greater people’s culture”. It’s coming and the UK has led the way in showing Europe how to pummel performers in to an early grave.