Rome's opera house signs deal to save jobs

Management and unions agree to new deal to keep musicians on payroll

Management at Rome's troubled opera house says that the 182 jobs it threatened to axe last month have been saved, after it reached an agreement with trade unions.

The new deal aims to save €3 million annually by cutting overtime pay and bonuses to workers who will see their overall salaries reduced by between five and ten per cent.

The agreement, which also includes a commitment by workers not to engage in strikes, has been described as a "victory for the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma" by its superintendent Carlo Fuortes, who assumed his role less than a year ago.

In October Fuortes and his board of directors approved measures to outsource an external orchestra, which would no longer be on the official internal pay role but would be engaged as and when necessary, in a freelance capacity. The move would have led to 182 musicians and members of choir being laid off, with estimated savings of €3.4 million. This unprecedented threat of mass dismissal forced the seven trade unions representing the opera workers back to the negotiating table.

Welcoming the new deal, Rome's mayor Ignazio Marino said that he hoped it could also lead to the eventual return of the opera's acclaimed conductor Riccardo Muti who left abrubtly in September, after six years at the helm, claiming there was no longer the “necessary serenity” to lead successful productions.

Muti's departure followed months of unrest at the heavily-indebted opera house over its attempts to introduce a restructuring and salvage plan to avert liquidation.

The proposals met with constant opposition from trade unions whose workers disrupted the annual open-air opera festival at the Baths of Caracalla by staging stikes, described at the time as “totally unjustified” by Marino.

The upcoming opera season begins on 27 November with Dvořák's Rusalka, replacing the previously-scheduled Aida which was to open the Rome opera season before Muti handed in his notice.

Opera experts have described the re-programming as a disappointment, and season ticket holders were notified in October that they were entitled to a refund.