Artists protest Berlusconi's culture cuts

ROME — Enraged by Silvio Berlusconi’s culture cuts, Italy’s performing arts community on Monday staged a “requiem for culture and Italian spectacle” in a Rome square with auteur Gianni Amelio and Nobel-winning playright Dario Fo among backers of the packed protest.

The mock wake for Italo culture held in the Piazza Farnese was also attended by helmers Ettore Scola and Giuliano Montaldo, thesps Alessandro Gassman, Elio Germano and Pierfrancesco Favino, and composer Nicola Piovani.

The poor economic climate has given Prime Minister and media mogul Berlusconi the opportunity to institute the most incisive cuts ever to performance arts subsidies.

Culture coin is being nearly halved to a total of $470 million a year for theater, film, opera and dance, jeopardizing up to 400,000 jobs, according to the protest organizers.

Hardest hit will be theater, opera and dance, while cuts to film funding are more moderate — down from $116 million in 2008 to some $90 million this year — and are expected be offset by new tax credits.

Italy’s government pullout from arts spend has prompted a national debate on how this coin could be better invested.

Last month best-selling novelist and helmer Alessandro Baricco (“Lesson 21″) launched a provocative appeal proposing to scrap what some consider wasteful subsidies to badly managed opera houses and national theater companies.

But as the requiem protesters point out, Italy invests only a measly 0.28% of its gross domestic product on cultural coin while an average of 1.4% of GDP goes to the arts in other major European countries.

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