ROME — After the maestro Riccardo Muti signed on with the Rome Opera, in 2008, with the honorary title of conductor for life, he lifted the orchestra to new levels. Houses were packed, and audiences moved to tears. But the news in September that he had decided to pull out of productions at the house, citing a lack of “serenity” at this financially troubled and strike-prone theater, has plunged the opera back into uncertainty.
New chaos arrived two weeks later, when the opera’s management made a dramatic and much-contested move to fire the 182 musicians in the orchestra and chorus and potentially rehire them as outside contractors. For their part, the musicians say they are unfairly taking the blame for years of mismanagement at the opera, which is run by the city of Rome and is widely seen as a bastion of patronage hires.
Last week, the management of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma appeared to back away from its plan, and the musicians said they would consider pledging not to go on strike. However it unfolds, the dispute in Rome is emblematic of the troubled state of opera in the country of its roots.
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