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La Scala Superintendent Fired

February 25, 2005 | By Carlo Vitali
MusicalAmerica.com
MILAN – Yesterday, the La Scala board of governors voted to dismiss Superintendent Carlo Fontana. Mauro Meli, who has held the titles of artistic director and “Piermarini division manager” (named for La Scala’s original architect, Giuseppe Piermarini) since Oct. 2003, has been named as Fontana’s successor.

In his parallel capacity as La Scala board’s chairman, Milan’s Mayor Gabriele Albertini will now face a wave of protest for what is largely perceived as an act of arrogance on the part of Riccardo Muti, since 1986 the principal conductor and increasingly de facto overlord of the famous opera house.

Neither officially informed of nor involved in the decision, La Scala personnel and their unions maintain that Albertini treats the house as his personal property and allows Muti too much power. Already picketing the newly restored house (the board was forced to meet elsewhere), they announced further disruptions, resulting in the cancellation of Hindemith’s “Sancta Susanna” and Corghi’s “Il dissoluto assolto,” a double bill scheduled for nine performances starting in March. It’s an unprecedented blow for Muti, who was slated to be on the podium. City Councilor for Culture Salvatore Carrubba, who had asked Albertini to postpone any such decisions, announced his own resignation. Representatives of the Center-Left opposition, both on Milan’s city council and the national parliament in Rome, are suggesting that the mayor should resign as well.

Fontana’s tenure began in Oct. 1990; his contract was due to expire next November. Observers believe that Muti and his supporters within the board (notably Fedele Confalonieri, head of the Berlusconi-owned Mediaset conglomerate) forced the timeline to ensure the continued flow of funds from various public agencies over which the current parties in power preside. Local elections are scheduled for April; despite the (still unachieved) privatization process, those public agencies still play a major role in La Scala’s fiscal health.

On March 7, Milan’s city council will hold a public hearing about the situation, while awaiting Fontana’s next move. Since his books are in perfect order – as certified by the Corte dei Conti, Italy's highest authority for public accounts – there is little doubt that he could successfully sue La Scala for breach of contract and obtain a stellar compensation.

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