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Postcard from... Milan


The world's great sopranos are not the only prima donnas at La Scala. In the latest fit of pique among its performers, ballerinas in the opera house's latest production of Romeo and Juliet have gone on strike after management refused to pay them more for dancing on a sloping floor.

They've been joined by the choir after singers complained that the plans for them to perform simple movements to coincide with Sasha Walz's choreography was a step too far; or at least one that merited a Christmas bonus. As a result, today's opening performance of the production has been cancelled.

"The dance corps believes that the difficulty of dancing on a sloping platform should be compensated with a concrete bonus," said a statement for the ballerinas.

The performing arts divisions of Italy's dinosaur unions have something of a history regarding digging their heels in. Many opera fans have asked why actors in Verona have been paid extra for wielding fake swords, or why performers in some theatres can demand more for singing in German.

Such working practices have been blamed, along with government funding cuts and falling audiences, for the financial dire straits that many of Italy's lyric theatres find themselves in. The opera houses in Rome, Naples, Florence and Genoa, have been on the verge of bankruptcy.

La Scala management seemed in no mood for compromise yesterday. It said the artists were "not being asked to do anything different to what would normally be required in a seasonal show".