La Scala is a world-renowned opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated in August 1778 and was originally known as the New Royal-Ducal Theatre alla Scala . Most of Italy’s greatest operatic artists, and many of the finest singers from around the world, have appeared at La Scala during the past 200 years. Today, the theatre is still recognised as one of the leading opera and ballet theatres in the world and is home to the La Scala Theatre Chorus, La Scala Theatre Ballet and La Scala Theatre Orchestra. The theatre also has an associate school, known as the La Scala Theatre Academy, which offers professional training in music, dance, stage craft and stage management. La Scala’s season traditionally opens on the 7th of December, which is Saint Ambrose’s Day, the feast day of Milan’s patron saint. All performances must end before midnight, and long operas start earlier in the evening when necessary.
The La Scala Theatre Museum is accessible from the theatre’s foyer and a part of the house, contains a collection of paintings, drafts, statues, costumes, and other documents regarding La Scala’s and opera history in general. La Scala also hosts the Academy for the Performing Arts. The goal of this academy to train a new generation of young musicians, technical staff, and dancers.
A fire destroyed the previous theatre, the Teatro Regio Ducale, in February 1776 after a carnival gala. A group of ninety wealthy Milanese, who owned private boxes in the theatre, wrote to Archduke Ferdinand of Austria asking for a new theatre and a provisional one to be used while completing the new one. A second plan was accepted in 1776 by Empress Maria Theresa. The new theatre was built on the former location of the church of Santa Maria alla Scala, from which the theatre gets its name. The church was deconsecrated and demolished, and over a period of two years the theatre was completed. The theatre had a total over 3,000 seats organized into 678 pit-stalls, arranged in six tiers of boxes above which is the ‘loggione’ or two galleries. Building expenses were covered by the sale of palchi, which were lavishly decorated by their owners, impressing observers such as Stemdhal. La Scala soon became the preeminent meeting place for noble and wealthy Milanese people. In the tradition of the times, the main floor had no chairs and spectators watched the shows standing up. The orchestra was in full sight, as the orchestra pit had not yet been built.
Above the boxes, La Scala has a gallery where the less wealthy can watch the performances, called the loggione. The loggione is typically crowded with the most critical opera aficionados, who can be ecstatic or merciless towards singers’ perceived successes or failures.
La Scala was originally illuminated with 84 oil lamps mounted on the palcoscenico and another thousand in the rest of theatre. To prevent the risks of fire, several rooms were filled with hundreds of water buckets. In time, oil lamps were replaced by gas lamps, these in turn were replaced by electric lights in 1883.
The original structure was renovated in 1907, when it was given its current layout with 2,800 seats. In 1943 La Scala was severely damaged by bombing. It was rebuilt and reopened on the 11th of May 1946, with a memorable concert conducted by Arturo Toscanini (who was also an associate of composers Verdi and Puccini).
La Scala hosted the first production of many famous operas, and had a special relationship with Verdi. For several years, however, Verdi did not allow his work to be played here, as some of his music had been modified by the orchestra. This dispute originated in a disagreement over the production of his Giovanna d’Arco in 1845; however the composer later conducted his Requiem on 25 May 1874 here.
The theatre underwent a major renovation from early 2002 to late 2004. The theatre was closed following the traditional 7 December 2001 season opening performances of Otello. The renovation were controversial, preservationists feared that historic details would be lost. However, the opera company was said to be impressed with improvements to the structure and the sound quality, which was enhanced when the heavy red carpets in the hall were removed. The stage was entirely re-constructed, and an enlarged backstage allows more sets to be stored, permitting more productions. Seats now include monitors for the electronic libretto system provided by Radio Marconi, an Italian company, allowing audiences to follow opera libretti in English and Italian in addition to the original language.
I feel honored and privileged to have had the opportunity to attend a performance of the Rossini opera “LA SCALA DI SETA,” while I was in Milan. I have done my best to provide an insight into the performance, which I found to be excellent and well-staged. The music alone is superb, and transports the listener even if you don’t understand the words. The production has many comical moments as well (which I am sure that Rossini never expected). I am sharing a little overview of the opera, I hope it would intrigue you to go see a local production or even obtain a DVD of the performance from La Scala. You will not be disappointed. If anyone could be called comic relief, it would have to be Germano and to a smaller degree Blansac.
Giulia, the ward of Dormont, is trying to persuade her servant Germano and her cousin Lucilla to leave her chamber in order to allow Dorvil, the young man whom she has secretly married to escape. Indeed, every evening Giulia lowers a silken ladder from her balcony to the garden so that Dorvil can climb to her chamber. On emerging from his hiding place, and before leaving his young wife, Dorvil expresses his concern over the imminent arrival of his friend Blansac, the charming beau that Dormont has chosen for Giulia. To avoid any embarrassment, the girl devises a scheme: Blansac should be induced to play court to Lucilla, who likes the young man very much. There are twists and turns along the way, this opera does have a very happy ending, that being Blansac stating his wish to marry Lucilla. And that Giulia and Dorvil live happily every after.