The Italian Cultural Crisis And The Case Of The Bellini Theater

After 130 years, there may not be any future for the Bellini.

Bellini Theater Catania
Superbizzu [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Do we really want to let our culture die?

I hate that people think going to the theatre is a special occasion. I wish people would treat it as normally as going to the cinema.

— B. Blethyn

Both opera and theater have a centuries-old tradition, from Shakespeare in England to Arthur Miller in the U.S., continuing with Gioachino Rossini and Giuseppe Verdi in Italy. In the past, people were more used to go to the theater. It was a common pastime for the bourgeoisie, unlike today, as there seem to be a general loss of interest in performing arts.

In Italy, according to ISTAT — the Italian National Institute of Statistics — 20% of the population is not keen on cultural activities in their spare time, and this percentage is even worse when it takes into account only theater and opera.

For example, in 2018 88,3% of Italians did not see any opera or classical music concert, while 80% of them did not go to the theater during the whole year. Obviously, this situation has many repercussions on cultural center such as, for example, the Bellini Theater in Catania.

The Bellini Theater was inaugurated back in 1890 and was so named to commemorate a local famous composer, the first artist who staged the opera “Norma” for its first soirée: Vincenzo Bellini.

During the 20th century many important artists like Luciano Pavarotti and Maria Callas, had the chance to perform there.

However, after 130 years, there may not be any future for the Bellini. As a matter of fact, the Sicilian Regional Assembly cannot properly subsidize the administration of the theater. Indeed, according to the Italian law, it has to deliver a three-year economic program (2018-2020) to respect the financial report but, without an account, it will be impossible both to organize and manage any of the future theater seasons. All this would lead to a forced closure of one of the most important theaters in Italy.

The managers announced that, if the situation will not change, the theater can only make it to the end of this year.

Bellini is undoubtedly the shiny symbol of Catania and losing it would mean misplace a part of both the local and national identity. As mentioned before, one of the reasons of this situation is the cross-cutting crisis of Italian theater. People do not experience performing arts for different reasons: the ticket price is considered to be too expensive, the calendar of events is deemed incompatible with the chaotic rhythm of modern life and, here more than everywhere else, there is an idea of boredom simplitically linked to theater performances.

Something might still change, if institutions start to speak again about cultural programs and educate younger generations to the beauty of art and theater. Today it’s the Bellini’s turn, tomorrow the protagonist could be any other of the Italian opera jewels.

Do we really want to let our culture die?

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