Trouble is brewing in theatres and opera houses all over Italy, where workers are anxious about their future in view of threatened cuts to state funding for the arts, known as FUS (Fondo unico per lo spettacolo). The climate is particularly tense at Il Teatro alla Scala in Milan, which has been picked out by the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for special attention. Berlusconi has asked the minister for fine art and culture, Rocco Buttiglione, to prepare a report on the situation at the opera house, which he accuses of being overstaffed and spending too much. According to trades unions representatives at La Scala, there are 720 people on the permanent payroll, comprising 135 members of the orchestra, 105 in the chorus, 80 dancers, 270 stage hands and technicians and 130 administrators; a further 150 people are on temporary contracts.

In 2004, productions at La Scala cost 105 million; 60 per cent of this money was spent on paying staff.