Culture Minister Owen Bonnici has directed two of his ministry’s agencies to spend over €400,000 on the hosting of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca opera next month, just as his Cabinet colleague, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana, continues to tighten the belt to shore up the public deficit, which is due to hit the €9 billion debt mark this year.
Competing directly with the decades-old tradition of Gozitan theatres holding yearly operas, Bonnici has pushed the Valletta Cultural Agency and the Manoel Theatre to spend significant amounts of public funds for the government to have its own opera.
To be directed by world-famous Jose’ Cura, the opera will cost the Valletta Cultural Agency some €200,000, while Manoel Theatre will be spending an additional €206,000 – in addition to the tens of thousands of euros it will receive from other sponsors, including the government-controlled Bank of Valletta.
A breakdown of the public funds being used for the occasion given to Opposition MP Julie Zahra shows that the main artist behind the initiative, Jose’ Cura, will be paid almost €50,000 for his weeklong stay in Malta, apart from travel and accommodation costs.
At the same time, the opera’s other main performers will be paid €20,000 each and the opera’s foreign stage director will be paid €35,000.
The information provided by Bonnici also shows the public will also be footing €62,000 in accommodation costs at various hotels and another €12,000 in marketing initiatives.
The Shift is informed that Bonnici’s ministry has already been handing out complimentary tickets to friends and acquaintances, particularly to people in his electoral district, for next month’s performances.
The Valletta Cultural Agency is meanwhile still refusing to provide information on the tens of thousands of euros it is expected to spend on another performance – a biography of Labour Party darling, singer Mary Spiteri.
Bonnici has been hitting the headlines because of a number of issues in the past months since being given the culture ministerial portfolio.
These include his knowledge of sexual abuse cases at the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, which led to the sacking of its CEO Sigmund Mifsud, the renting out of a historic palace by direct order to be turned into a restaurant by Heritage Malta and alleged improper contracts signed by Manoel Theatre chairman Michael Grech without finance ministry clearance.
How much do the tickets cost? So all the attendees will be subsidized by the tax payers.
Another public-funded vote-buying initiative taparsi kultura.
Money no problem (LA MHUX MIN BUTI) CAPCAP GAHAN MEQ MEQ
Speaking of Sigmund Mifsud – he has a new property job, and has yet to account for his sexual harrassment cover-up charges.