Controversy over rock musical in Roman Forum

Culture minister defends giant stage on Rome's Palatine hill.

A rock opera due to be performed on a giant stage in the Roman Forum this summer has provoked an outcry from archaeologists who are concerned that the production could damage the fragile ancient ruins.

The musical production Divo Nerone, which will provide seating for 3,000 spectators, centres on the young emperor Nero and the action takes place on the Palatine hill site of what was once the dining hall of his infamous Domus Aurea.

The stage, which is 14-m high and 36-m wide, has been labelled an "abomination" by Andrea Carandini, the archaeologist, author and president of the Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI), the Italian cultural heritage organisation similar to Britain's National Trust. Carandini said the production would be better off being held at the Baths of Caracalla which has hosted regular summer productions of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma.

The former Rome antiquities superintendent Adriano La Regina has weighed in too, writing in Vatican daily newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that the stage is an “insult to the Rome landscape”, while Monti-based councillor Nathalie Naim said the “monstrous structure” makes the Roman Forum resemble an “amusement park.”

However Italy's culture minister Dario Franceschini says the production poses “no risks” to the Forum and that the stage will be dismantled at the end of the summer.

The capital will reportedly receive €250,000 from the musical's organisers, for the use of the location, as well as pocketing three per cent of ticket sales.

The two-hour production, in Italian and English, was due to launch on 1 June but has been postponed until 7 June. The show is the first musical of Italian production designer and art director Dante Ferretti, and is scheduled to run until 10 September.