Opera is a type of live show of great tradition in Italy. Its regulatory discipline was initially defined by Law 800/1967 which declared the “relevant general interest” of opera and concert activity “as intended to promote the musical, cultural and social training of the national community”. If at first the autonomous lyric bodies and similar concert institutions had been recognized as legal personalities under public law, the subsequent Legislative Decree 367/1996 transformed these bodies into foundations under private law, in order to eliminate the organizational rigidity and consequently to attract private funding. However, the fourteen lyric-symphonic foundations retain a marked public imprint, also due to the fact that the financing of their activities mainly comes from public funds. Moreover, since 2013, given the persistent economic and financial difficulties faced by most of the lyric-symphonic foundations, they have been at the centre of a reorganization process introduced by legislative decree. 91/2013 (the so-called “Valore Cultura” decree, converted with Law No. 112 of 7 October 2013), still in progress today.
With regards the other sectors of live entertainment, in 1985, the Unified Fund for the Performing Arts (Fondo unico per lo spettacolo / FUS, L. n. 163/1985) was established, which supports, in addition to the lyric-symphonic foundations (to which about half of the resources are allocated on average), entities, associations, organizations and companies that carry out musical, dance, theatrical, circus and traveling performance activities, as well as events and initiatives of national character and relevance to be carried out in Italy or abroad, and, following the l. 205/2017, carnival events. With reference to the film sector, l. 220/2016 has established a special fund for the development of investments in film and audiovisuals. The law provides for the creation of the Observatory for the Performing Arts, whose tasks include preparing a report on the use of the FUS that the Minister of Culture is required to present every year to Parliament. The criteria relating to the assignment of contributions disbursed by the FUS have been redefined following the aforementioned Legislative Decree 91/2013 (the so-called Valore Cultura decree, converted with Law No. 112 of 7 October 2013), according to which they must take into account the cultural importance of the production carried out, the quantitative levels, visitor indices, as well as the management regulation of the bodies. Therefore the D.M. 1 July 2014, which provided for the three-year programming of artistic projects admitted for funding, defined criteria common to all sectors (theatre, music, dance and circus) as well as the strategic objectives to be pursued, including the promotion of multidisciplinarity, geographical rebalancing, generational change and better coordination between the levels of government (Article 2).
While the strategic objectives outlined by the decree were generally appreciated, the introduction of a complex system of algorithms for the evaluation of funding applications was particularly discussed. Great importance is, in fact, given to quantitative aspects, such as the number of shows and spectators, compared to those relating to the artistic quality of the project. To date, the criteria for the disbursement and the methods for the anticipation and settlement of the contributions to the live show (valid on the FUS) are defined by the D.M. 27 July 2017, which essentially maintained the same system as Ministerial Decree 1 July 2014, further simplifying its structure. However, due to the COVID-19 emergency, specific criteria have been identified for the allocation of the FUS resources for 2020 and 2021, and the disbursement of an advance on part of the recognized contribution for 2019 has been arranged, in order to ensure employment protection and project continuity.
Another novelty introduced by Ministerial Decree July 1, 2014 concerned theatres: permanent theatres, in fact, have given way to national theatres, organizations that carry out theatrical activities of considerable national and international prestige and are co-financed by local authorities for a sum equal to 100% of the State contribution, and to theatres of significant cultural interest, organizations that carry out theatrical production activities of significant cultural interest mainly within the region to which they belong and are co-financed by local authorities for a sum equal to 40% of the State contribution. In 2020, six national theatres and twenty theatres of significant cultural interest have benefited from the contributions provided by the FUS. Finally, it should be noted that the entertainment sector is at the centre of a reform project launched in 2017 with Law no. 175/2017 containing “Provisions on entertainment and delegations to the Government for the reorganization of the subject”. In particular, art. 2 delegates to the government the task of reorganizing the legislative and regulatory provisions concerning opera-symphonic foundations, theatres, music, dance, travelling shows, circus activities, re-enactments and historical carnivals, through the drafting of a single regulatory text called “Codice dello spettacolo” in order to give the sector “a more effective, organic and compliant with the principles of simplifying administrative procedures and optimizing spending assets, hence improving the artistic-cultural quality of the activities, encouraging their production, innovation and use by the public”. However, there are still no implementing decrees to date.
 The most recent reports are available at website http://www.spettacolodalvivo.beniculturali.it/relazioni-al-parlamento/
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