Just in: Rome Opera fires its orchestra and chorus

Just in: Rome Opera fires its orchestra and chorus


norman lebrecht

October 02, 2014

‘It’s the only way to prevent closure,’ says the Sovrintendente, Carlo Fuortes.

Read more here (in Italian).

The media are being told that orchestra and chorus strikes led to Riccardo Muti’s departure as music director. There is no precedent for dismissing an orchestra and chorus in a modern Italian opera house.


UPDATE: The plan is to rehire the players and singers, either as freelancers or as part of an ‘outsourced’ orchestra and chorus. This would enable the company to avoid social and pension costs. Fuortes, who has been in the job for less than a year, said the measure would save 3.4 million Euros of the present 12.5 million orchestra and chorus budget.



  • sdReader says:


  • william osborne says:

    Not certain, but I think “licenziati” could also mean that they were laid off and not necessarily fired. Anyone know? It’s a truly fine orchestra and house. Uno casino grande as usual — hopefully mostly theatrics.

    • Dave says:

      “Licenziati” means fired. And they may as well deserve it, instead of continuous strikes they should have just done their job better and not embarrass a great conductor like Muti. They shouted at him invading his room, and didn’t follow him in a tour in Japan, plus always threatening with strikes before each premiere. Real mercenaries NOT artists!!!

      • Vittorio Parisi says:

        These are just fairy tales for people who believe newspapers looking for scandals to selling copies. The corridor in front of the conductor dressing room in Rome Opera House is so narrow that it’s not possible to walk if you are not alone. The dressing room itself is full if 4 people are inside. An invasion sounds really ridicolous and never happened. People should know also that when Muti conducted in Japan part of the orchestra was not there not because they refused but because they were also playing a ballet for the regular season. I have written already that some unions probably have responsibilities in this disaster but it would be better be informed before offending people that, as a matter of fact, has lost the job due to a financial hole not created by them

        • Alessandra Lombardini-Parks says:

          Vittorio Parisi is absolutely correct. Unfortunately the media campaign at the service of the various political group interested in the closure of Teatro dell’Opera has put out inaccurate information related to the orchestra and chorus professionals and their demands. Maestro Muti has long addressed the issue of preservation of culture in Italy and voiced it clearly in front of polititians and the public at numerous events – the concert inside the Senate in Rome, during concerts at the Rome Opera and other notable venues (many of his addresses are still found on Youtube), by asking that the politicians eliminate “politics” from our theaters and bring the necessary measures to ensure continuance in the delivery of musical excellence. He also addressed the need for measures to enhance the current music education system and provide job opportunities to musicians in a country that for hundreds of years has brought music tradition out to the world. Maestro Muti spoke very highly of the Rome Opera House artists defending their requests, lastsly during their successful tour in Japan in Spring 2013 so it is quite inaccurate and superficial to believe the incorrect statement of some newspapers that claim the Maestro walked out because of the orchestra and the chorus. Let’s not forget that Maestro Muti has a long story of trying to improve the music situation in Italy, even after many years of fighting for the cause of Music at famous La Scala Opera House in Milan, he finally was driven away by the corruptions of politicians who “rule” that establishment. Many people may not be aware that in italy Opera Houses have been “state” controllled institutions run by the Major of the city where the theater is located who has the task of electing the “Sovrintendente”, a sort of general manager figure, who will then propose the Artistic Director as well as the Music Director, and where the ” Consiglio di Amministrazione”, sort of board of directors is more or less evenly split (depending on the country’s political situation) among various reigning political parties and their representatives, so music needs and decisions are not made by actual music savy personalities. The financial deficit incurred by the previous administrations of the theater are caused by a LONG history of political corruption that has dominated the country and it Opera Houses. Also note that the administrative personnel expenses have not been listed, though a great and unjustified expense to the theater, but those positions are almost solely awarded based on political affiliation so it was clearly too uncomfrotable to “disturb” that truth in favour of staining the reputation of the artists whose work is visible from the outside instead. I don’t find it fair to criticize the musician, who are by the way greatly underpaid in comparison to their counterparts worldwide, based solely on the media campaign against them, as wanted by our politicians.

          • Alessandra Lombardini-Parks says:

            Correction: The Japan tour of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma led by Maestro Riccardo Muti was this past Spring 2014, not 2013 as erroneusly written by me in my earlier comment.

          • william osborne says:

            It is true that Muti has made strong and important statements in the past. So why has he been so silent for the last month, exactly at such a critical stage in the debate and public discussion?

  • Unfortunately “licenziati” really means fired…

  • Anne says:

    Perhaps they’re planning to try out that Vienna Symphonic Library thingy that was featured here a while ago?

  • Xalira says:

    The article talks about ‘esternalizzazione’, i.e. outsourcing. I don’t know how many cases of this exist in a theatre with a regular season, so I can just imagine that the number of productions will be drastically reduced.

    • MWnyc says:

      The Netherlands Opera (sorry, are we supposed to call it the Dutch National Opera now?) doesn’t have a resident orchestra; it brings in pre-existing outside ensembles for its productions. (I don’t know if it the company has its own chorus or not.)

      One advantage of that system is that you can produce a wide and varied repertory with the proverbial right-tools-for-the-job: a Baroque orchestra for 17th- and 18th-century rep; Asko/Schoenberg or Ensemble Modern for late 20th-century and contemporary works, and so on.

      I presume that’s the model that the Opera di Roma management intends to follow; if so, I hope they can make it work.

      If New York City Opera should ever be relaunched, I think they should use that system as well.

    • sdReader says:

      The Italian article cites several European opera house examples of “externalization.”

  • ML says:

    I felt very nonplussed. The management fired the orchestra and the chorus to save Rome Opera. So, what is the audience supposed to do when they enter the door? To see the managers and board members lay in state, or to see the empty hall itself? To inspect the seats, the carpet, and whether the restroom functions? Or do they expect the ticket holders to present themselves on stage? Or do they plan to re-purpose this large hall into a large dining room? This whole thing just eluded me.

  • Vittorio Parisi says:

    They want to be free to hire an orchestra sparing on costs. Orchestra and chours have been invited to build an association based on quality and they “could” be called again. Better to wait a few hours to wait more news and official comments. I’m curious to see what will happen next and if tomorrow Chailly in La Scala witll conduct without saying a word on this situation. A very sad day for Italian culture. As a matter of fact many friends or players with whom I worked are suddenly fired.

    • sdReader says:

      Yes, and they had signed an agreement, right? It was some small union that ruined everything.

      • Charles Papendick says:

        Does your comment mean that you believe that the union caused the situation the Company is in ? Seriously ?

        • Vittorio Parisi says:

          Some unions have responsibilities in this situation but they did not create this hole in the budget, this is sure. Years ago Rome Opera House financially was save. Then suddenly Rome new major, Mr Alemanno, fired the Opera Director , Mr Francesco Ernani (now in Bologna Opera House) accusing him of a financial disaster that was totally invented. This because every political man in my country has friends to help and Alemanno had plenty of them willing to have a position. A new Director was named and , because the Opera had 2 stages (Teatro Costanzi and Teatro Nazionale) they had 2 different Artistic Directors with 2 salaries! A real financial hole has been created in these last 4-5 years. Unions protested many times because some of them did not accept the rebuilding plan of the government even if this plan nominally would not have a cost in term of positions. But accusing the unions of the financial hole that has been created by others is not only false but also a shame. That is.

  • Kári Friðriksson, tenor from Iceland says:

    Muti was a gui who banned tenors to sing HIGH NOTES in arias like La donna e mobile and Di quella pira. BETTER LET HIM GO ! He was arrogant and destroyed music…

  • Novagerio says:

    The board of Rome’s Opera House has voted to sack the choir and orchestra, replacing them with outsourced artists, Mayor Ignazio Marino announced Thursday. “This was a tough decision to make,” said Opera General Manager Carlo Fuortes. “The only other alternative was shutting the theater down altogether”.
    This is the first ever collective sacking of choir and orchestra in Italy, Fuortes added.
    “It’s an innovative move in Italy, but very much in use in the rest of Europe,” he said.
    The opera house was in disarray after iconic conductor Riccaro Muti abruptly quit last month, citing labour strife, mismanagement and cash problems which he said deprived him of the necessary “serenity” to work.
    The capital’s opera house had come off a long hot summer in which strike action disrupted performances after artists and management failed to reach a contract agreement.
    The opera lost 12.9 million euros last year and the strikes caused losses of some 300,000 euros during the summer, Marino said.

  • SVM says:

    Having closed the orchestra and chorus, it is difficult to see exactly what they have managed to save… It sounds like the opera house has downgraded to being a venue: let us hope it does not become just another posh conference-centre or a museum with no performances.

  • william osborne says:

    I went to the Rome Opera about four years ago. The orchestra was world class. To fire an ensemble of that quality is sheer madness.

    Sorry to see Italy moving to the American model of limited seasons performed by pick up musicians. Italy and Holland are the two European countries (out of about 40) that are moving toward the American funding model. There might be a few advantages in moving toward a private funding system (especially in terms of saving money,) but over all the results will be negative as illustrated in the States: far fewer performances, higher ticket prices, less ensemble cohesion, less sophisticated stagings, and a shrinking public that will eventually include mostly rich people, among other things. The firing of the orchestra is a result of the long-term effects of bad government in Italy. Sadly, this will only further the negative view of Italy in the eyes of their fellow Europeans. Such a pity for a country that has so much to offer and which should be the world’s model for opera.

  • Des says:

    How can anything be achieved to a high standard by outsourcing? It’s a tool used by employers to atomise the workforce. In all walks of life.
    Quality is not a concern. Rather, the drive to shift profit fir the employer at the expense of the employee. And cover over the truth with PR spin about ‘saving the Opera’, ‘protecting the jobs’, ‘the people of Rome’.
    The most important thing is that the unions have sold out, as in all walks of life. As they have been doing for many a year. Where’s the concerted campaign by the unions? Hot air, tub-thumping. As a young woman said to me on Friday outside the Teatro: “I’ve lost my job”.

  • Yuri Ilynov says:

    What are they doing!!! Centuries of tradition – those people are unique carrying the tradition from Rossini, Bellini, Verdi!
    I think the best idea is to fire the administration! For not being able to run the glorious theatre!

  • Alessandra Lombardini-Parks says:

    Yuri Ilynov: you are making precicely same point as Maestro Muti has made many many times. The politicians are only looking at chances for personal $$$ gain and complitely disregarding, due to their ignorance in the field of music, not only traditions but what is needed to not only preserve it but to foster it into the future. It is not just the artists’ jobs we are talking about right now, but the quality of and institution which could not ever be replicated by hiring pick-up musicians. Each orchestra and theater has its own traditions that are passed down from generation to generation by its members. Continuity is key here and breaking it is exactly what will disrupt the excellence of these theaters. Too sad.