On the night of 12 March 2011, Rome's Teatro dell'Opera staged the first in a series of scheduled performances of Verdi's opera Nabucco, conducted by Ricardo Muti. After the end of the choral "Va pensiero", which contains the lyrics "Oh mia patria, sì bella e perduta" ("Oh my country, so beautiful and so lost"), the audience applauded "heartily". Conductor Muti, breaking with opera protocol and the strict conventions of composer Verdi himself, turned to the audience and delivered a small speech, referring to the severe budget cuts announced by the Berlusconi government that would particularly affect the funding of the arts. Muti spoke of the need to keep culture alive in Italy, prompted, as he later stated, by the belief that "killing culture in a country like Italy is a crime against society. Culture is the spiritual glue that holds a people together". Muti then invited the audience to participate in an encore of the "Va, pensiero" choral – the invitation and the encore also a break from tradition for an opera performance. The opera audience stood up and sang along with the on-stage chorus . Muti recalls that "80 percent of the audience knew the lyrics" and sang along, while "some members of the chorus were in tears" (source: Wikipedia).