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Monday, 25 February, 2002, 16:39 GMT
Italian envoy's future uncertain
Colin Firth
Colin Firth: Leading the defence of Mario Fortunato
The Italian Cultural Institute head has said he is still waiting to hear from Rome about whether he will keep his job, after concern for his future was raised by distinguished arts figures.

Last week, in a letter, the actor Colin Firth called on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government to ensure that Mario Fortunato continues in his post.

Firth's letter, signed by 19 senior figures in the arts world , was printed in the Independent newspaper and later, in translation, in the Italian daily La Repubblica.

But Dr Fortunato told BBC News Online: "There is still no answer from them. There is silence at the moment.

The signatories
Salman Rushdie (writer)
Sir Harold Pinter (playwright)
Doris Lessing (writer)
Ian McEwan (writer)
Rupert Everett (actor)
Sir Tom Stoppard (playwright)
Ken Loach (director)
Lady Antonia Fraser (writer)
Alan Sillitoe (writer)
Ruth Fainlight (poet)
Hanif Kureishi (writer)
Nick Hornby (writer)
Elizabeth McGovern (actress)
Michael Nyman (composer)
John Madden (director)
Alan Rusbridger (Guardian editor)
Pat O'Connor (director)
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (actress)
Sir Nicholas Serota (Tate director)

In May, Dr Fortunato will have spent just two years in a post that traditionally continues for four, but his contract has not yet been renewed.

It would be highly unusual for him not to continue in the post, and he would be the first director in the institute's 52-year history to lose it in such a fashion.

He has already won high praise for his achievements.

"The strange thing is the silence of the Italian media," he added. "There is no reaction to this."

In personal terms, the situtation was "really worrying", Dr Fortunato said.


A spokeswoman for the institute said: "No one has ever not been reconfirmed.

"Nobody has ever enjoyed the success of the current director."

Mr Firth's letter last week said the 43-year-old novelist's presence at the helm was "invaluable".

"One is struck by the breadth of his knowledge and his ability to cater to a multitude of differing tastes and points of view," Mr Firth wrote.

Countless connections have also been made between Italian and English artists, film directors, writers, actors and musicians. Attendances frequently exceed capacity

Colin Firth

"The traditional is balanced by the modern, the serious by the light-hearted, the philosophical by the personal, the Latin by the Anglo and so forth, so that one's picture of Italian culture is as rounded as it is stimulating.

"We sincerely hope he will continue to enjoy a long and extremely fruitful tenure."

The spokeswoman at the institute said it could only be hoped that the continuing silence from Rome was "a good sign".

See also:

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