© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Classical 101

Performance at La Scala is a Riot

While I do not advocate violence as a means to an end, maybe the Italians are on to something. Seems that, when Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government decided it was necessary to cut Italy's performing arts budget by 37%, citizens took exception.  Loudly. Angrily. In large numbers. Using the forum of opening night of Die Walkure at Milan's La Scala, Daniel Barenboim turned and addressed the audience in general and Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano in particular.  Maestro Barenboim said, ""For that title, (he is maestro scaligero), and also in the names of the colleagues who play, sing, dance and work, not only here but in all theatres, I am here to tell you we are deeply worried for the future of culture in the country and in Europe." The unprecedented address from the pit brought applause from the audience, including the President. Outside, police and protesters clashed violently over the proposed cuts. Do we in the United States, in our states, in our communities, care enough to get angry that our government finds Arts and Culture worth so little?  How soon our leaders have forgotten the words of John F. Kennedy.  May they echo in our hearts and minds and inspire us to greater things: "I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. But democratic society--in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation. And the nation which disdains the mission of art invites the fate of Robert Frost's hired man, the fate of having "nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope. I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well."