The two upper tiers at La Scala are known as the galleries.
For my second evening at La Scala I paid EUR 24.00 for a ticket in the last row of the topmost gallery. From the seat itself I could see nothing, but since there was no one behind me I could simply stand up the whole time and see nearly the entire stage, except for a small strip that was blocked by a pillar. So my 24 Euro gallery seat was much better than the 66 Euro box seat I had had the week before.
The opera I saw from the gallery was the premiere (actually a revival of a 1997 production by Graham Vick, but they still called it a premiere) of Macbeth by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901).
On the back of every La Scala ticket it says: "Formal dress is required at premiere performances." And on their website they say: "Gentlemen are kindly requested to wear evening dress for premieres. Gentlemen are in any case required to wear a jacket and tie at all performances." (In Italian: " È gradito l'abito scuro per le prime rappresentazioni e sempre la giacca e la cravatta per i Signori spettatori.")
I was surprised at this, so I posted a query in the Milan Forum here on VirtualTourist, and was quickly assured by VT member Maurizioago that a suit and tie would do. ("...and no beard! I'm joking!")
In fact it turned out that the gallery spectators at La Scala were just as sloppily dressed as their counterparts in all the other opera houses I know.
Another thing I had heard was that people in the galleries were hyper-critical and quick to boo at the slightest provocation -- and this turned out to be very true! At the end of the evening they booed just about everybody who ventured out on stage, including the conductor Kazushi Ono and the soprano Violeta Urmana, both of whom I thought did all right.
One woman in front of me kept shouting "Vergogna! Vergogna!" (Shame! Shame!) and a short but loud altercation erupted between the boo-people and the bravo-people.
In my opinion the performance went reasonably well despite the fact that star baritone Leo Nucci, who was singing the title role of Macbeth, got sick and had to be replaced after the first act. His understudy Ivan Inverardi took over and saved the show, but some people even booed him at the end, quite unfairly. (He's not a fantastic singer like Nucci, but he's easier to understand and he's a good actor.)
A high point of the performance for me was a ballet at the beginning of the third act. This is usually left out nowadays, but La Scala retained it, and it was beautifully danced by La Scala's Ballet Company -- more about them in a later tip.
Second photo: As in a lot of older opera houses (Stuttgart, for example) people with gallery tickets do not enter through the main entrance, but through a side entrance leading to this nondescript staircase that leads up to their (relatively) cheap seats.
Third photo: Gallery spectators have their own foyer for the intermissions aka intervals. As you can see, they are not formally dressed.
Fourth photo: Spectators in the galleries just before show time.
Also present at this same performance of Verdi's Macbeth was Opera Chic (aka Courtney Smith), who according to Classical Singer magazine is "the world’s foremost opera blogger".
(Her own self-description: "I'm a young American woman living in Milan, and you're not. I go to La Scala a lot, and you don't.")
But she was sitting downstairs somewhere, not up in the galleries with us impecunious folks.
She posted her first report during the intermission after the first act: "BREAKING: 'Indisposed' Leo Nucci Leaves Scala Stage Mid-Macbeth, Understudy Ivan Inverardi (Who?) Saves Teh Day".
In this report she wrote among other things: "Opera Chic's hugest get-well-soon to Maestro Nucci, greatest Verdi baritone of this post-Cappuccilli age; and big props -- no matter how he sang -- to Inverardi who had to step to the plate in an emergency."
I've never met Opera Chic, by the way (we use different entrances and staircases), but she's never met me either, so that makes us even.
A few days before each premiere La Scala presents an introductory talk, in Italian, about the upcoming production.
These talks are held in the “Arturo Toscanini” foyer at 6 pm. Admission is free and you don't need a ticket to get in, you just have to be one of the first 250 people to arrive at the main entrance of La Scala. When I was there the foyer wasn't quite full, so they didn't have to turn anybody away.
Unfortunately the talk I attended happened to be on my first evening in Milan, shortly after I got off the train, so my Italian listening comprehension was still somewhat rusty. I understood some of the more obvious points (things I already knew about Verdi's opera Macbeth), but missed most of the subtleties. And when people laughed I never knew what they were laughing about.
Second photo: The speaker was Antonio Rostangno from the University "La Sapienza" in Rome.
Third photo: Bust of Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945), composer of Cavalleria Rusticana and other operas, in the Foyer Arturo Toscanini.
We weren't lucky enough to be in Milan to catch a performance at the Teatro alla Scala, but we did take a tour through this historic venue. Outside, while nice, the building does not really grab your eye. Inside, however, is a different story. Walking through the halls and peering into the theater was quite a thrill. Next time we'll definitely catch a performance.
The Teatro alla Scala, Milan's famous opera house, was completed in the late 18th century, to replace a former theatre destroyed by fire. Its grand building has hosted the world premieres of several operas. You can purchase a cheap standby ticket on the day of the performance.
I went to the Teatro della Scala box office and purchased a ticket for the ballet. When I left the box office and looked at the ticket, I realized the performance would be held at Teatro degli Arcimboldi, miles away from the city center and lacking the historical beauty of Teatro della Scala. The lesson here is to check with the box office attendant before you buy your ticket ( biglietto in Italian) and make sure your performance is in the Teatro della Scala. For €5 you can also take a tour of the Theatre Museum, for those who want to experience the beautiful architecture and design without seeing a show.
After the stunning cathedral and galleria I was expecting something special from the world famous La Scala opera house, but it struck me as a little ordinary after the wonders of the Piazzo Duomo. Still, what the opera house may lack in extravagent exterior design, it more than makes up for in prestige, and will now again play host to the best musicians on the planet, night after night. Tickets for the opera can be bought for as little as €12, for seats in the central circle, and you can even get them online following the link given below.
The La Scala opera house is now fully restored and operational again after much time under wraps.
The Teatro alla Scala was founded, under the auspices of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, to replace the Royal Ducal Theatre, which was destroyed by fire on 26 February 1776 and had until then been the home of opera in Milan.
The cost of building the new theatre was borne by the owners of the boxes at the Ducal, in exchange for possession of the land on which stood the church of Santa Maria alla Scala (hence the name) and for renewed ownership of their boxes.
Designed by the great neoclassical architect Giuseppe Piermarini, La Scala opened on 3 August 1778 with Antonio Salieri's opera L'Europa riconosciuta, to a libretto by Mattia Verazi.
Rising above Piazza della Scala (itself dominated by a monument dedicated to da Vinci) is the renowned Teatro alla Scala. La Scala, as it is commonly known, first raised its curtain in 1778 and has treated generations of opera aficionados to arias aplenty over the years.
La Scala is now home to the opera, ballet and a theatre museum. Visiting the museum is said to be like a backstage tour. It has costumes and costume sketches, souvenirs from past conductors, composers and singers of the opera, and a collection of marionettes and puppet theaters. Visiting you can get a glimpse of the inside of the theater.
Two halls in La Scala are devoted to Milan’s darling Verdi, whose ‘Slaves Chorus’ from Nabucco remains the unofficial Italian anthem. Memorabilia include the spinet on which he learned to play, scores in his own hand and the jewel-encrusted baton presented to him after the triumphal reception of Aida. Rossini, Puccini and Toscanini are honoured alongside him.
The theater was heavily damaged by bombs during WWII, but reopened in 1946 under the baton of famed composer Arturo Toscanini, who had returned to Milan after an eight-year stint as director of the New York Philharmonic.
Actually, I have expected to see more and something more glamourous when I have to see the world famous La Scala for the first time but I could not believe when I saw the grey decent building in the first time. Anyway package is not as important as the content, so teh good concerts, offered inside may compensate the facade. They say the Teatro alla Scala offers great collections, the Livia Simoni library and look out over the auditorium. Guided tours are also offered. The square in front of and behind it are nice, probably more in the warm summer months.
The Neoclassical building of Scala with its exceptional acoustics was the sample for many other opera houses in the world, but first of all in Italy.
Its construction as a fitting replacement for the Teatro Ducale (sadly destroyed by fire), in the late 1700s took place by the help of Empress Maria Teresa of Austria, who was also Duchess of Milan in the same time. The new Scala was inaugurated on August 3rd, 1778 with the premiere of Europa riconosciuta of Antonio Salieri.
The earlier popular Neapolitan "opera buffa" in its program replaced by Rossini's romantic operas eventually and in the first quarter of the 19th century La Scala became the traditional place of the Italian melodrama, which persists even today.
In its repertoire, however, you can find also ballet and foreign operas of composers such as Mozart, Strauss, Stravinsky, Debussy etc. with the performances of famous artists including Callas, Peggy Fonteyn or Nureyev.
The 2008 season has started at the end of October, to my biggest surprise,: the operetta par excellence, the masterwork of the Hungarian Lehár, "Die Lustige Witwe."
Try to take in a performance if you are here between the beginning of November and the end of June. Tickets are like gold dust, for a seat on the orchestra level, expect to spend a fortune, if avalable. If you can manage to get tickets, wear casual suit; you are there for glamour and you have to do your part too.
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