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 (FUS – 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, andsubsequent 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") – the backbone of the Italian musical life, which enjoy a very special and privileged status - whose managing and funding criteria have been established by several subsequent specific reform laws (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 more necessary because of the heavy financial constraints that the Italian musical and theatrical life has been presently experiencing, due to the 15% cuts to the State Fund for the Performing Arts (FUS) between 2009 and 2013: from 458 down to 390 million EUR, including the funding of cinema (see also chapter 4.2.1). Furthermore, the more or less harsh reductions in regional and municipal funding are making things even worse so much so that, along with the Fondazioni Liriche, always on the verge of collapse (see chapter 7.3), also the 68 Teatri Stabili – the cornerstone of drama theatre in Italy – are presently in a "state of emergency".
Such heavy financial constraints, though, are not the only reason of concern for the live performing arts in Italy, which are also undergoing a period of strong institutional uncertainty and frequent conflicts because of the persisting ambiguity in the interpretation of the "concurrent state / regional competence" established by Constitutional Law 3/2001 (see chapter 5.1.2). And yet, in the last decades, the adoption of several comprehensive reform draft laws on the performing arts – on which a certain degree of bipartisan consensus has even been found – has been postponed from one legislature to another.
Some steps forward are now finally on sight. In fact, according to art. 9 of Leg. Decr. n.91/2013, the Minister for the Heritage has been delegated to re-determine by ministerial decree, within 90 days, the criteria for the allocation of state subsidies to the performing artsfor the next and the following years, in view of "improving their transparency, their simplification and their effectiveness". (It should be noted, though, that art. 9 does not concern the 14 Lyric Foundations, which are extensively dealt with by art. 11: see chapter 7.3).
It is also 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 (see chapter 4.3), 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.