I'm hoping the hunger strike of Italian opera's taxpayer-subsidized divas stretches out for a nice long while, as I've always found the idea of government-support for art or any other form of entertainment detestable; besides, if it helps some of them shake the Helga-esque figures they sport, good might even come of it.
Opera lovers in Italy this season may notice something different about the performers. Many of them are looking distinctly svelte after going on hunger strike to protest about proposed cuts to the country's arts budget. Living on only water, fruit juice and coffee, singers' weights have shrunk.
Barbara Vignudelli, a soprano at the famed La Scala opera house in Milan, has had no solid food for two weeks. 'I feel OK, but I'm dreaming of a mortadella sandwich,' she said. 'I'm doing this to try to shame our politicians. We have one of the most important cultural heritages in the world - it will be a disaster for Italy if these cuts are implemented.'
What a contemptible mindset! Where does she get the silly idea that the Italian taxpayer owes her a living even if it means servicing foreign loans in perpetuity in order to provide it to her?
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's coalition government has proposed a 35 per cent cut to state funding for the arts - from €464 million to €300m - in the 2006 budget as part of financial measures aimed at reducing Italy's annual deficit, which is above levels permitted by the EU.You mean opera houses which can't draw enough business to keep themselves above water might actually have to shut up shop? Lord help us all, the sky is falling!
The proposal has caused outrage. Critics say it could force Italy's 13 opera houses to cut performances and that some of the smaller historic theatres, heavily dependent on government subsidies, may have to close.
This being continental Europe though, the story wouldn't be complete without some idiot to utter a lot of nonsense about a "right" to government subsidy, and if there's one thing Italians are known for, it's their unique talent for florid expressivity:
Prestigious events like the Venice Film Festival would be in danger, along with thousands of jobs. Last month cinemas and theatres across Italy staged a one-day strike in protest at the plans, with the film industry association Anica calling the funding crisis 'an attack on citizens' fundamental right to culture'.Yeah, and I have a right to a Lambourghini, $250 million in a numbered Swiss account and an exclusive call on the sexual services of every beautiful woman I lay eyes on ... oh, and ponies too, while we're at it, lots and lots of cute pink frilly ponies.
Some people have gone on rotational one-day strikes, while others such as Vignudelli starved themselves for two weeks. She is also angry that Berlusconi claims La Scala employs too many people.Most people come to realize that holding their breath won't get their parents to give in to their selfish demands by the time they enter their teens, but Ms. Vignudelli is to be commended for her refusal to accommodate such petty concepts as "maturity", "a thick skin" or even "a sense of proportion": whatever she feels strongly enough about must be the only way to go!
Vignudelli has lost 13lb. 'I am a person who is healthy and takes care of herself, so to do this is difficult,' she said. 'But it shows how strongly I feel.'
Soprano Manola Colangeli from the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma has just endured a 10-day fast and has lost 12lbs. 'It was difficult, especially when I walked past the bar in the theatre every day and smelled coffee,' she says. 'I've stopped now because I was getting really weak and it affects the voice.'The poor thing! Look on the bright side, madame, at least you'll soon be able to fit into all those half-forgotten slinky dresses from your youth.
What a lot of spoiled, petulant parasites! To think anyone might ever have wondered how the term "diva" acquired its peculiar connotations ...