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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 October 2005, 00:07 GMT 01:07 UK
Cuts 'threaten Italian culture'
The Barber of Seville at La Scala
La Scala cancelled a performance of The Barber of Seville
Cinemas and theatres across Italy have staged a one-day strike in protest at government plans to cut arts budgets.

A performance of Rossini's Barber of Seville at Milan's La Scala opera house was among scores of cancelled shows.

Critics say the cuts could lead to the demise of thousands of cultural institutions, including such venerated events as the Venice Film Festival.

"In these conditions, the film festival cannot go ahead," said Davide Croff, head of the Venice Biennale.

Nicola Cimmino, who represents union Cgil at Milan's opera house La Scala, said it was "really very serious".

"With these cuts, small institutions are finished. The bigger ones will go on, but there will be difficulties," he said.


La Scala cancelled Friday's performance of The Barber of Seville because of the strike.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government has ordered the central arts fund to be cut from 464m euros (318m) to 300m euros (206m) as part of wider 11.5bn euro (7.9bn) budget cuts.

Film industry association Anica said the move would put 5,000 companies and 60,000 jobs at risk.

"The attack against showbusiness and citizens' fundamental right to culture has reached new heights," an Anica statement said.

We hope the government will consider the impact that a blow to the Biennale would have for the image of our country
Davide Croff
Venice Biennale
Mr Croff said the cuts could make the Venice Film Festival "untenable".

"It is not a question of moving on with a limp. It is much more serious," he said.

"Everyone will have to do their part and we will do ours, searching for alternative funding.

"But we hope the government will consider the impact that a blow to the Biennale would have for the image of our country."

Fiorenzo Grassi, head of the Lombardy branch of industry association Agis, said: "Two thirds of Italian companies, particularly theatre and music, will not be able to make it through the year."

The strike has also delayed the debut of actor and director Roberto Benigni's new film The Tiger and the Snow.

"The opening of my film is a party ruined not by the strike but by the cuts," Benigni was quoted as saying by the Ansa news agency. "The strike is absolutely right."

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