As one of the world’s most famous opera houses Teatro alla Scala is used to high drama. However, recently this has come not from the singers but from the technicians, with strikes over staff shortages.
Fortunately the opera management and trade union members have now reached an agreement, with a proposed strike on 7 December cancelled. Director Alexander Pereira has agreed to appoint additional staff with fixed-term contracts beginning in 2016. This means performances of Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco – which had been threatened – will go ahead as planned.
Earlier this month the opening performance of Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon was cancelled due to strike action. It was feared that the rest of the season may also be under threat and that the conflict could spiral out of control – as happened at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in 2014, where the entire orchestra was fired.
‘This battle is not only about the stage technicians, who have been understaffed for months. It is up to everyone to oppose the company philosophy of doing more with fewer resources,’ said the SLC-CGIL union, which represents the technicians, in a statement.
La Scala is one of Milan’s most important cultural destinations, and plays a vital role in its economy. However, cultural institutions in Italy have seen large cuts in funding over the last few years, which has caused anger among arts workers. As a result Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi passed an emergency law to try and prevent strikes at cultural institutions, following a strike by staff at Rome’s Colosseum in September. La Scala will hope this agreement means such laws will not have to be enforced in Milan.