La Scala Asks Rome for Help With Strikes

Classic Arts News   La Scala Asks Rome for Help With Strikes
Attorneys for the Teatro alla Scala in Milan have turned to the Italian national government for assistance in dealing with strikes that have forced the cancellation of two major performances this month. Possible labor walkouts now threaten the opera house's grand season opening on Dec. 7, a major media event in Italy.

Labor unions, who are demanding more generous contracts in compensation for greatly increased workloads, called one-day strikes on Nov. 9 and Nov. 17, forcing La Scala to call off two concert presentations of Verdi's Requiem given to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Arturo Toscanini's death. The concerts were to be the first performances led by Daniel Barenboim in his capacity as maestro scaligero ("Maestro of La Scala"), effectively principal guest conductor and the house's highest-ranking musician.

La Scala's management recognizes that the theater's staff and performers, who have not had a pay raise in seven years, have greatly increased productivity, with the number of annual performances having grown by two-thirds during that time. But the house's administration maintains that it currently has no ability to offer a new contract, as Italian law now forbids any major opera house in the country to negotiate a union contract in the absence of a nationwide contract with the same union.

According to a report from Agence France-Presse, La Scala's lawyers have written a letter to the national culture ministry in Rome asking for permission to negotiate directly with union locals at the opera house and demanding that the ministry "open a discussion" on the law and on national contracts.

As for management's position regarding a new contract, a statement said that "La Scala confirms its willingness, as allowed by the law and economic possibilities, to recognize the work accomplished" by its staff.

If no progress is made in resolving the labor dispute, the opening of the new season — featuring a new staging of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde by director Patrice Ch_reau starring Waltraud Meier, Ian Storey, Michelle DeYoung and Matti Salminen — could be in jeopardy.

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