7.3 Status and partnerships of public cultural institutions
The first and most far reaching reform in the juridical and administrative status undergone by major cultural institutions has been the above mentioned reform ( chapter 5.3.2) of the fourteen main public opera houses (Enti autonomi lirici) - including La Scala in Milan, the Rome Opera, La Fenice in Venice, the Maggio Fiorentino, the S. Carlo in Naples, etc. The reform was deemed necessary for rationalising the exceeding costs of such privileged institutions, amounting to as much as half of the total state expenditure for the performing arts and the film industry, to which a variable amount of regional and municipal subsidies should also be added. Leg. Decrees 367/1996 and 134/1998 were thus aimed at transforming the opera houses into more flexible private "lyric foundations", able to attract private capital for up to 40% of their endowment through fiscal incentives. However, only La Scala was able to immediately obtain the required private support: for the other opera houses - although formally transformed into foundations - the actual development of public-private partnerships turned out to be far more complex and problematic than expected, especially for the lyric foundations located south of Rome, in the economically less prosperous "Mezzogiorno" (Southern Italy).
As most of the financial burden of the lyric foundations is still covered by tax revenue, the 29% decrease in state allocations – from 259 to 183 million EUR in nominal terms between 2001 and 2013 –on the one hand, and the constant rise, on the other, in fixed costs (mostly absorbed by salaries) is getting more and more unsustainable, urgently calling for action. To prevent the collapse of such a relevant component of Italian musical life, presently still mainly benefiting the "happy few" (only 3% of Italian citizens attended a lyric performance in 2006, according to Istat data drawn from the Time budget survey), and to make its paramount costs more acceptable to a national community strained by a difficult economic crisis, a first step towards a financial rationalisation was undertaken in April 2010.
Law n. 100/2010 was actually trying to cope with the precarious situation of the lyric foundations mainly by containing the dynamic of rising salaries and by calling for a deep revision of the foundations' national labour contract within one year (a deadlinesubsequently delayed to the end of 2012). The decree also foresaw the possibility to grant, upon request, a special autonomous status – allowing more freedom in decision-making and the adoption of labour contracts differing from the national one –to those foundations presenting a number of given prerequisites, later more precisely defined by Presidential Decree 117/2011: special international relevance, high level of artistic productivity, balanced budgets at least in four of the five years preceding the request for autonomous status, earned income equal to not less than 40% of the amount of state contributions, substantial amount of private financing.
No wonder that, for the time being, only two of the lyric foundations have been able to attain in 2012 such, much yearned for, autonomous status: the Santa Cecilia Academy of Rome (the only Italian national orchestra), followed in April by La Scala. No wonder, as well, that other foundations appealed against the conferring of such a special status to the two institutions at the Constitutional Court and at the State Council.
Most of the other theatres are in more or less bad shape, so much so that seven of them, when on the verge of bankruptcy, have been put one after the other under the administration of external commissioners: in recent years, this has been the case with Teatro Carlo Felice (Genoa), Teatro S. Carlo (Naples) etc., and is presently the case with Maggio Fiorentino (Florence) and Teatro Petruzzelli (Bari). In particular the Maggio Fiorentino and the Carlo Felice are presently in such a bad shape that they run the risk of being closed down.
To deal with this extremely precarious situation, which threatens what is considered the cornerstone of Italian musical life, in June 2013 Minister Bray called for the institution of a technical, "emergency" panel to urgently discuss institutional and economic ways of dealing with the crisis.
Subsequently, in August, art. 11 of Leg. Decree n.91 2013 provides for urgent measures for the recovering and restructuring of the lyric foundations on the verge of bankruptcy, through the creation of an ad hoc fund of 75 million EUR for the year 2014, which will be operated by a new, extraordinary commissioner to be appointed. To get access to this fund these foundations will have to present to the ministry, within 90 days, a restructuring plan for balancing their budget within the subsequent three years, also by reducing their technical administrative personnel (which will be transferred to another state agency) and by abolishing their excessively indulgent additional labour contracts.
Beside these emergency measures dealing with the rescue of the endangered opera theatres, further measures are aimed at the re launch of the lyric foundations system as a whole through a huge set of rules concerning the reform of their statutes and of the criteria of allocation of state subsidies. Such criteria should also take into account the need of a better coordination of the 14 foundation's activities through co-productions, exchange of performances, etc., and should be aimed at fostering artistic innovation along with an improved y territorial and social outreach.