First off, I need to introduce everyone to a blog they should bookmark right away, The Collaborative Piano blog by acclaimed accompanist and faculty member at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada. He posts tons of interesting information, links, and great performances from YouTube. Just take a peek at his series 31 Days to Better Practicing which would no doubt be applicable to working artists in any field.
He recently posted this YouTube video of a Russian sextet and choir performing Vivaldi at the Pantheon in Rome. It is a nice performance until about 5 minutes in when a female employee of the Pantheon stops another movement from beginning and announces, “The Pantheon is about to close. Please move towards the exit. The concert is over, because today the Pantheon closes at six o’clock.”
According to The Guardian, trade union rules under strict enforcement were to blame for ending the concert early despite audience protests and urges for the performers to continue playing. The whole affair was caught on video and is uncomfortable to watch.
However, this should not come as a major shock to those familiar with how Italy runs their cultural institutions and businesses. While spending a summer studying and performing in the city of Lucca, I announced to the gelato shop next to the concert venue I would be performing in that they could expect a large influx of customers after the event. The proprietor thanked me for the information, and told me he would be sure to close early so he would not have to work too late. I was flabbergasted. Most business owners look forward to making some extra cash. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that there is an opportunity cost to working for those who enjoy their leisure time more than most – but I was still surprised at this one.
Last year, when the Italian culture minister wished to improve the image and efficiency of Italian cultural sites, she brought on Mario Resca, who had previously introduced the McDonald’s franchise to Italy and could bring his private sector experience to the public sector. Arts administrators from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Louvre protested and signed petitions against Mr. Resca’s appointment, fearing he would commodify the arts in Italy. By all means, stifling bureaucracy will do far more good.
I think there is a middle ground between McPompeii and attempting to improve audience enjoyment at events and cultural sites. As Mr. Resca noted,
As a client of the Italian cultural system I am frustrated…the museum attendants don’t smile, they are depressed. Some of the museums are not physically clean. There is no signage, there is no communication… (Rocca, 2009)