The Bondi decree to regulate salaries and terms of employment in Italy's opera houses has now become law and the country's opera companies are having to come to terms with it as they plan their future seasons.

Hiring new staff is blocked until December 2011, apart from the top artistic roles, and even then new employees may only be taken on to fill positions left vacant in the previous season.

The opera companies also have to negotiate the new national contract (the old one expired in 2003) at a time when there is a 25 per cent cut in the finance available for overtime pay, incentives and additional bonuses.

These are the main but most controversial points of a law that has been dressed up as a reform.