5.3.2 Performing arts and music
The first comprehensive law dealing with the performing arts as a whole – music, dance, theatre and cinema – was Law 163/1985, which, by creating the Unified Fund for the Performing Arts (Fondo Unico per lo Spettacolo), rationalised and substantially increased the amount of financial resources for the performing arts. In exchange for this increase, more transparency was required, both through a yearly detailed report on the allocation of the Fund to be submitted by the Ministry to the Parliament, and through the establishment of an Observatory for the Performing Arts within the Ministry.
However, Law 163 did not define general criteria for funding, which was left to a new sector-specific legislation to be adopted for the single artistic disciplines. As such laws never saw the light, in spite of countless draft laws on music and theatre submitted to the Parliament during the following decades, the already existing legislation for music (Law 800/1967, and subsequent modifications) continued to be applied, whereas theatre and dance are still waiting for ad hoc legislation.
With the only exception of the thirteen (since 2004, fourteen) main Opera Houses ("Fondazioni liriche"), which enjoy a very special status, and whose managing and funding criteria have been established by specific reform legislation (see chapter 7.3), criteria for state financial support of music, theatre, dance, and circuses are still ruled by temporary ministerial regulations, establishing that funding of such activities should be allocated according to a mix of:
The Minister has final decision-making powers.
The quite conservative criteria for allocating state money to the performing arts organisations – in fact traditionally mainly based on historical precedents (the average of past contributions), rather than on artistic productivity and audience outreach standards – are presently under scrutiny, as it is felt that they act as a barrier to access for new, less established organisations, and thus as a hindrance to a renovation of the Italian scene. The review is all the more necessary because of the heavy financial constraints that the Italian musical and theatrical life has been presently experiencing (see chapter 4.2.1).
It is worth noting that theatre, despite the lack of a specific sectorial law, has been, until 2010, the only live performing arts discipline endowed with a national arm's length agency, ETI / Ente Teatrale Italiano, established under fascist rule by Law 365/1942. The scope of the agency had been extended, in 2005, from the promotion of drama to the promotion of dance and music as well, with a particular focus on experimentation. Its activities have ranged from fostering artistic cooperation and networking with other similar European institutions – e.g. French ONDA , the Netherlands Theatre Institute, etc…- at the international level, to the exploration, at the national level, of innovative uses of the theatrical art (in underprivileged neighbourhoods, in prisons, etc…) to foster social cohesion (see chapter 3.4.4). The agency was recently abolished in the wake of the austerity measures adopted by Law 220/2010 on Financial Stability, and its staff has been transferred to MiBAC's DG for Performing Arts, which should subsume ETI's functions, in particular the ones dealing with international cooperation.
What has just happened to ETI is a reminder of the fact that the live performing arts are undergoing a period of strong institutional uncertainty. Such uncertainty is due not only to financial constraints, but also to the persisting ambiguity in the interpretation of the "concurrent state / regional competence" established by Constitutional Law 3/2001 (see chapter 5.1.2). But the adoption of a comprehensive reform draft law on the performing arts lying before the Parliament – on which a certain degree of bipartisan consensus has even been found – continues to rebound from one legislature to another, and seems unable to move forward.