The Italian culture minister, Alberto Ronchey, banned the appearance of animals in Aida at last year's festival for fear of further damaging the baths. Festival officials are furious that the new total ban has come so late in the day, with many tickets already sold. Ronchey, however, has decided that wear and tear caused not just by the public, but by musical vibration, lights and electric cables, has gone far enough. The irony in blaming high-tech modern staging is that in their heyday the Terme di Caracalla were renowned for the perfection of the hydraulics and hot water systems.
THE hallowed Roman precincts that staged the Three Tenors concert at the 1990 World Cup, the Baths of Caracalla, have been summarily closed to opera performances. London tour operators have been turning away prospective customers for Rome's now-cancelled summer opera festival, a tradition at the baths since the days of Mussolini.