di Francesco Musolino
Rome, February 27 - Threats of a strike at Rome's Teatro dell'Opera, which would have prevented Thursday's opening night performance of Puccini's Manon Lescaut and damaged the company's account books, were averted at the last minute. The performance, directed by Riccardo Muti with his daughter Chiara, was considered crucial to the finances of the opera company which, like many in Italy, is struggling to stay afloat. Strike threats by unions involved in the production could have soured the season as well as opening night which Italian President Giorgio Napolitano was expected to attend as well as Dario Franceschini, Italy's new culture minister, and Ignazio Marino, mayor of Rome. However, the unions involved, including the powerful CGIL, the Fials theatrical union, and the Libersind technical union, issued a statement calling off the threat of a strike and announcing a return to talks with management on next Tuesday. Carlos Fuortes, superintendent of the opera company, told ANSA that he was "very happy" the strike was averted and more talks are planned. "It was a solution without...blackmail, we can now get on the road to the restoration of the theater and get back to normality in a few months," he said. Fuortes added he hopes "that in a few months all will be healed". In a statement, the CGIL union said it was pleased with the appointment of the Franceschini, part of the cabinet of Italy's new Premier Matteo Renzi who passed crucial confidence votes earlier this week. But the struggle isn't over, warned the CGIL. "Yesterday there was a lot of tension in the theater, there is now a clear division between workers, tensions we do not want to underestimate or pretend do not exist and these must be addressed," said Alberto Manzini of the Lazio CGIL. Muti's involvement was considered special - although he is an honourary conductor for Rome's Teatro dell'Opera, he actually has a contract until 2020 as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO). Previously, Muti was music director of La Scala in Milan for 19 years.