An Operatic Mess at the San Carlo Theater

It’s onerous to gauge whether or not the drama presently enjoying out behind the scenes at the San Carlo Opera House in Naples will finish as “opera seria” (severe) or an “opera buffa” (comedy).

Italy’s oldest opera home presently has two revered figures, every of whom believes he’s its rightful normal director after a convoluted dispute that critics say has solid the theater, and Italy, in an unflattering gentle.

It has all the components of excessive drama — battle, stress, even perhaps vendetta — and is enjoying out like a farce, or, in the phrases of some Italian information shops, “un pasticcio”: a multitude.

A fast plot synopsis:

Act I. In May, Italy’s authorities passed a law that mentioned normal administrators of the nation’s 13 state-run opera theaters couldn’t serve past their seventieth birthday. That instantly terminated the contract of Stéphane Lissner, who had turned 70 in January, halfway via his time period as the normal director of the San Carlo.

He was the solely normal director instantly affected by the regulation, and there was open hypothesis in the information media that the regulation, which was handed as an pressing measure, had been drafted to particularly single him out.

The French-born Lissner, who ran La Scala in Milan for a decade and the Paris Opera for six years, warned the board of the theater that he would problem his termination.

Act II. In August, the theater employed Carlo Fuortes, 64, as a alternative, not lengthy after he resigned as the chief government of Italy’s nationwide broadcaster, RAI.

Fuortes is an skilled supervisor who was praised for turning round the Rome Opera throughout a stint there as normal director from 2013 to 2021. Italian information shops extensively reported that the hard-right authorities of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni wished to interchange Fuortes in the broadcast place with its personal nominee. It was mentioned that the San Carlo was meant to be a comfort prize for Fuortes, who started there on Sept. 1.

Act III. On Sept. 12, a labor courtroom reinstated Lissner, after his legal professionals challenged the grounds for his dismissal. The tradition ministry instructed the theater board to reinstate him, which it did on Monday night, in accordance with his lawyer. (The board declined repeated requests for remark.) Lissner is anticipated to return to Naples from Paris, the place he has been since June, as quickly as this week. But the board has additionally introduced it might file enchantment the courtroom’s determination.

What occurs in Act IV stays to be seen. A assessment panel inside the identical labor courtroom will now look at the determination to reinstate Lissner, who’s once more legally the theater’s normal director. His lawyer, Pietro Fioruzzi, identified the “irony” that his shopper had been reinstated by the identical theater board that was interesting that call.

“What happened is certainly not worthy of the history of Naples and the history of the San Carlo,” mentioned Riccardo Realfonzo, an economics professor who sits on the board.

Realfonzo had contested a number of administration choices at the theater, together with some hirings and Lissner’s remuneration, which Realfonzo mentioned was too excessive. He has additionally refused to log out on the theater’s final two budgets, as a result of they weren’t balanced, he mentioned.

As a consultant of a regional authorities that funds the theater, he was involved about the potential monetary fallout in the occasion that the theater needed to find yourself paying each normal administrators, or paying off one among them. He protested by not attending conferences.

Alberto Mattioli, an opera critic who simply revealed a book about Italy’s opera homes and their historical past, mentioned the unexpectedly handed regulation that ended Lissner’s run was additionally in keeping with Italy’s hard-right nationalist authorities drive to “put Italians first” at the high of the nation’s cultural establishments, declaring that the folks it initially affected each occurred to be French.

Dominique Meyer, who runs La Scala and can be from France, must go away in 2025 when he turns 70. Officials at the Milan theater mentioned authorized consultants have been inspecting the new regulation to find out whether or not it might apply at La Scala, which is ruled by a special statute than different opera theaters.

Mattioli mentioned that by utilizing the San Carlo as a pawn in political deal-making the authorities had diminished the standing of the theater, one among Italy’s most prestigious establishments. “Everything that’s happened confirms that Italy is a really incomprehensible country,” Mattioli mentioned.

Fuortes has not spoken publicly about the scenario and his lawyer declined to remark. His standing at the theater after Lissner’s reinstatement is unclear, however he has threatened authorized repercussions if he’s dismissed, in accordance with a letter from his lawyer to the San Carlo board that was shared with The New York Times by a 3rd get together.

It may take weeks for the assessment panel to listen to the enchantment. In the meantime, the drama is for certain to proceed.

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