11 October 2005

Italy Cuts Culture Budget by €260 Million; Opera Houses to Get €164 Million Less Over Three Years

In an attempt to halt the country's growing deficit and aid an economy mired in recession as next year's elections loom, Italian ministers serving under the government of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi have reportedly approved a controversial budget that cuts the nation's arts funding by more than €260 million ($315 million). The budget would reportedly reduce the country's deficit by €11 billion ($13.3 billion). With nearly half of the country's yearly arts funding of €496 million spent on opera houses, Italian opera companies would reportedly receive €164 million less each year, for the next three years.

While minister of culture Rocco Buttiglione has conceded that the cuts still require further discussion, the budget's numbers make clear that amid the faltering economy severe changes will have to be made.

"I don't intend closing this or that museum or theatre; the arts are a fundamental element of the identity of a country," Buttiglione told The Guardian.

The proposed cuts would reportedly affect cultural institutions ranging from the Teatro alla Scala to the Venice Biennale.

Stephane Lissner La Scala's general manager has pleaded with the Italian government to reassess the budget cuts, Bloomberg News reported.

"Europe as a whole can't just be the Europe of the economy: to continue on its historical path with its head held high, it must assign itself cultural projects and support them through and through. . . Because of the exceptional richness of its artistic heritage, Italy must set the example," Lissner said in a statement released to the press.

"Italy is not interested in the arts any more," filmmaker Roberto Benigni told La Repubblica. "In Italy, culture is being undervalued more and more, when we should in fact dedicate a lot of time, money and effort. We have so many great talents that should be nourished, and it's sad that this will not happen because we won't have the funds."

More information can be found at The Guardian, the Teatro alla Scala and La Repubblica

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