The world’s most-famous and best-loved opera house, one of the few able to house every aspect of a show, from the costumes to the choreography. With an Academy world famous for transmitting musical excellence, craftsmanship and theatre management
A discussion of the Teatro alla Scala, the world’s most-famous and best-loved opera house, is a discussion of the history of a unified Italy. Inaugurated in 1878, the Theatre has been a showcase for some of the greatest musicians and conductors of all time. We need mention only two: Giuseppe Verdi and Arturo Toscanini. «La Scala is the most famous Italian brand around the world after Ferrari», explains Alexander Pereira, Director since 2014. «For the city of Milan, la Scala is a point of reference, a sort of lay counterpart to the Duomo».
The theatre boasts two further advantages. Thanks to its laboratories, the workplace for some extraordinary costume and choreography experts, it is one of the very few venues able to house every aspect of a show within its walls. And la Scala has a huge Academy, with over 1,200 students, making it one of the world’s most important centres for the transmission not only of musical excellence, but also of craftsmanship and theatre management. It was the wish of Pereira, together with the musical director, Riccardo Chailly, to restore the Italian operatic repertoire to its rightful place at the heart of the theatre’s programme.
A major part of this vast musical heritage, which can be represented only in part, was born right within the walls of the theatre. This is the case of Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco (Joan of Arc), which opened the season and which had not been performed at la Scala for 150 years. «Moreover, we have striven to represent “verista”, bel canto and eighteenth century operas, which is why we established, within the orchestra, an ensemble faithful to the original playing style. At the same time», continues the Director, «la Scala is also a great international theatre. In order to combine these two aspects, both of which are essential, and showcase the work of our laboratories, we need to ensure productions stays at around 15 shows per year, in line with the Theatre’s historical production levels».
There is an ever-increasing need to become a theatre for everyone: «We have developed a programme of operas, ballets and concerts for children, in order to build the audiences of tomorrow. This has been so successful that we have had to add a number of recitals and this year we expect over 40,000 children and parents for the operas alone». Yet building the future also means keeping an eye on the accounts: «La Scala must not neglect its traditional role as a symbol of Italian culture around the world, nor lose its rank alongside the greatest theatres in our European capitals», stresses Pereira, «and this is why we need to reconsider our ways of working, ensuring high levels of both production and quality.
The project to bring together, in one vast hub at the Expo site, the production and storage of sets and educational activities will enable us to streamline the production processes and keep costs down. From a financial point of view, la Scala represents a virtuous model, where public and private sponsorship and ticket sales each contribute a third. For this model to work, however, we really need the backing of the Italian State. Moreover, we are working on the construction of an international network of sponsors to create a fourth source of tranquillity for the Theatre».