La Scala Officials Say Their Soviet Tour Plagued by Corruption
Nov. 06, 1989
MILAN, Italy (AP) _ The famed La Scala opera company called its recent tour of the Soviet Union a ''bureaucratic inferno'' of bribery and corruption and urged the Italian government Monday to lodge an official protest.
Alberto Rispoli, secretary-general of La Scala, said it was ''a miracle'' the company was able to stage all its performances during the Oct. 2-Nov. 4 tour in Moscow and Leningrad.
La Scala officials said they had to pay bribes and offer gifts to ensure the shows could go on.
''Every day we had to deliver something under the table for being allowed to work,'' Rispoli said.
Theater superintendent Carlo Maria Badini said he has asked the Italian government to file a protest with the Soviets.
He emphasized, however, that the incidents would not hamper relations with the Soviets and that President Mikhail S. Gorbachev will be welcome to visit La Scala during his Nov. 29-Dec. 1 trip to Italy.
Gorbachev, who is scheduled to travel to Milan to meet business leaders, had expressed a desire to attend the opera. The regular season opens Dec. 7, but there have been reports that Gorbachev could attend a rehearsal of Verdi's ''Vespri Siciliani.''
Gorbachev, an avid opera fan, attended a performance of La Scala company at Moscow's Bolshoi theater last month.
Sergio Escobar, Badini's assistant, said the performances went on ''only through daily payoffs and gifts to corrupt officials. This was the only way for getting what had been provided by the original contract.''
''We were in the hands of a criminal organization,'' Escobar added. ''It was a bureaucratic inferno.''
''Trucks disappeared during unloading or loading operations,'' said Rispoli. ''Every day we had to deliver something under the table for being allowed to work. We even considered the possibility of giving up and returning home. We succeeded in going on stage every time. It was a miracle.''
The La Scala officials did not go into details of the alleged payments.
Badini said the Italian company probably was the victim of an ongoing dispute between Gosconcert, the state company that controls and manages cultural performances in the Soviet Union, and the Bolshoi, where La Scala performed most of its works.
''We were caught in the middle of a chaotic situation because the forces opposing changes pursued by Gorbachev still are very powerful in the world of art as well at the highest political levels,'' Badini was quoted as saying by Milan's daily Corriere della Sera.