La Scala: The Temple of Lyricism

Where Music and Drama Meet: Discovering La Scala

La Scala is a world-renowned opera venue in Milan, Italy. The theatre was originally chosen the Nuovo Regio Ducale Teatro alla Scala (New Royal-Ducal Theatre alla Scala) and opened on August 3, 1778. Antonio Salieri’s Europa Recognita received its world premiere.

Most of Italy’s greatest operatic artists, as well as many of the world’s best singers, have performed at La Scala. The theatre is considered one of the world’s top opera and ballet houses. La Scala Theatre Ballet, The La Scala Theatre Chorus, La Scala Theatre Orchestra, and the Filarmonica della Scala Orchestra are all housed there. The La Scala Theatre Academy is an affiliate school that provides professional training in music, dance, stagecraft, and stage management.

A Journey Through Two Centuries of Musical History

The former theatre, the Teatro Regio Ducale, was destroyed by fire on February 25, 1776, during a carnival spectacular. A group of ninety affluent Milanese who owned private boxes at the theatre wrote to Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Este, requesting a new theatre and a temporary one to be used while the new one was being built. Giuseppe Piermarini, a neoclassical architect, created the basic design. Count Firmian, however, rejected it.

A Journey Through Two Centuries of Musical History
A Journey Through Two Centuries of Musical History

Empress Maria Theresa accepted a second scheme in 1776. The current theatre was erected on the site of the old church of Santa Maria alla Scala, which gave rise to the theatre’s name. The church was closed down and dismantled. The theatre was built for two years by Pietro Nosetti, Antonio, Pietro Marliani, and Giuseppe Fe.

The theatre featured a total of “3,000 or so” seats organized into 678 pit stalls, which were grouped in six layers of boxes above the ‘logging’ or two galleries. It has one of the largest stages in Italy.

The sale of boxes, which were elaborately adorned by their owners and impressed visitors such as Stendhal, funded the costs of construction. La Scala quickly became the premier gathering place for Milan’s nobility and rich citizens. The main floor had no chairs, as was customary at the period, and audiences watched the acts standing up. Because the orchestra pit had not yet been built, the orchestra was visible.

La Scala, like most other theaters at the time, was also a casino, with gamblers seating in the foyer. As Mary Shelley learned in September 1840, conditions in the theatre might sometimes be frustrating for opera lovers:

They were performing Otto Nicolai’s Templario at the Opera. Unfortunately, as is well known, the La Scala theatre serves not only as the universal drawing room for all of Milan’s society but every type of trading transaction, from horse-dealing to stock-jobbing, is carried on in the pit, making the snatches of melody one can catch brief and far between.

La Scala
La Scala

La Scala was originally lit by 84 oil lamps situated on the stage and another thousand around the theater.

The old structure was restored in 1907 and given its present seating capacity of 1,987. During World War II, the bombing seriously destroyed La Scala in 1943. It was renovated and reopened on May 11, 1946, with a famous concert led by Arturo Toscanini—twice La Scala’s primary conductor and an associate of composers Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini—and featuring a sensational soprano solo by Renata Tebaldi.

Many famous operas had their world premieres at La Scala, which had a special relationship with Verdi. However, Verdi refused to allow his work to be performed here for several years because some of his music had been altered (he said “corrupted”) by the orchestra.

Filarmonica della Scala in La Scala

The Filarmonica della Scala orchestra was founded in 1982 to build a symphonic repertoire to complement La Scala’s operatic tradition, with members drawn from the broader pool of players that constitute the Orchestra della Scala. Carlo Maria Giulini conducted the Filarmonica initially, then Riccardo Muti, with many collaborations with some of the best conductors of the time.

The debut of Rossini’s opera, William Tell, included pieces such as ‘Overture,’ ‘Storm,’ ‘Randez Vaches,’ and the well-known ‘March of the Swiss Soldiers,’ the theme song of the Lone Ranger.

Filarmonica della Scala in La Scala
Filarmonica della Scala in La Scala

About Recent developments for La Scala


R. Vermeulen of Philips Electronics tested accompanying “loudspeakers for audio system vibration” at La Scala as early as 1958, which were “secret in the inlet near the maximum.”

Major renovation from 2002 to 2004

From early 2002 through late 2004, the theatre received extensive renovations. The theatre closed after the usual season-opening performances of Otello on December 7, 2001, which played through December. From January 19, 2002, through November 4, 2004, the opera company relocated to the new Teatro degli Arcimboldi, located in the Pirelli-Bicocca industrial region, 4.5 miles outside the city center.

Preservationists were concerned that historic characteristics might be lost during the refurbishment by architect Mario Botta. The opera company, on the other hand, was pleased with the structural modifications and the improved sound quality, which was increased when the thick red carpets in the hall were removed. The stage was completely reconstructed, and an expanded backstage allows for more sets to be housed, allowing for more plays.

About Recent developments for La Scala
About Recent developments for La Scala

2005 onward

Carlo Fontana, La Scala’s general manager since 1990, was fired in February 2005 by the board of directors due to disagreements with music director Riccardo Muti. The ensuing staff response resulted in significant disruptions and strikes. The theatre’s board stated in a statement that it was “essential to unite the theatre’s management.”

On March 16, 2005, the La Scala orchestra and other employees decisively accepted a vote of no confidence in Muti. They requested Fontana’s replacement, Mauro Meli, quit. Muti had previously had to cancel a concert a few days prior due to the conflicts. Giuliano Urbani, Italy’s cultural minister, backed the conductor but demanded that management take immediate steps to ensure the smooth running and dignity of La Scala.

Stéphane Lissner, previously of the Aix-en-Provence Festival, was chosen General Manager and beautiful manager of La Scala in May 2005, making him the first non-Italian to reside the position. Daniel Barenboim was designated Maestro Scaligero, or de facto chief guest conductor of the company, on May 15, 2006. Barenboim was named as the next music director of La Scala in October 2011, with a five-year starting contract.

Riccardo Chailly was named the next music director of La Scala in December 2013, with effect on January 1, 2015.

Stéphane Lissner moved on from La Scala to the Paris Opera.

Principal conductors or music directors in La Scala
Principal conductors or music directors in La Scala

Principal conductors or music directors in La Scala

  • Franco Faccio in the years (1871–1889)
  • Arturo Toscanini in the years (1898–1903)
  • Cleofonte Campanini in the years (1903–1905)
  • Leopoldo Mugnone in the years (1905–1906)
  • Arturo Toscanini in the years (1906–1907)
  • Edoardo Vitale in the years (1907–1910)
  • Tullio Serafin in the years (1910–1914)
  • Gino Marinuzzi in the years )1914–1917)
  • Tullio Serafin in the year (1917–1918)
  • La Scala was shut from 1918 to 1920
  • Arturo Toscanini in the years (1921–1929)
  • Victor de Sabata in the years (1929–1953)
  • Carlo Maria Giulini in the years (1953–1956)
  • Guido Cantelli in the year (1956)
  • Antonino Votto in the years (1956–1965)
  • Gianandrea Gavazzeni in the years (1965–1968)
  • Claudio Abbado in the years (1968–1986)
  • Riccardo Muti in the years (1986–2005)
  • The position was empty from April 2005 to December 2007
  • Daniel Barenboim in the age (2007–2014)
  • Riccardo Chailly since 2015–present
Premiere in La Scala hall
Premiere in La Scala hall

Premiere in La Scala hall

  • Category: Opera Global premieres at La Scala
  • In 1778: Europa riconosciuta by Antonio Salieri
  • in 1794: Demofoonte by Marcos Portugal
  • in 1800: Idante, ovvero I sacrifici d’Ecate by Marcos Portugal
  • in 1812: La pietra del paragone by Gioachino Rossini
  • in 1813: Aureliano in Palmira by Gioachino Rossini
  • in 1814: Il turco in Italia by Gioachino Rossini
  • in 1820: Margherita d’Anjou by Giacomo Meyerbeer
  • in 1827: Il pirata by Vincenzo Bellini
  • in 1829: La straniera by Vincenzo Bellini
  • in 1831: Norma by Vincenzo Bellini
  • in 1833: Lucrezia Borgia by Gaetano Donizetti
  • in 1835: Maria Stuarda by Gaetano Donizetti
  • in 1839: Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio by Giuseppe Verdi
  • in 1840: Un giorno di regno by Giuseppe Verdi
  • in 1842: Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi
  • in 1843: I Lombardi alla prima crociata by Giuseppe Verdi
  • in 1845: Giovanna d’Arco by Giuseppe Verdi
  • in 1868: Mefistofele by Arrigo Boito
  • in 1870: Il Guarany by Antônio Carlos Gomes
  • in 1873: Fosca by Antônio Carlos Gomes
  • in 1876: La Gioconda by Amilcare Ponchielli
  • in 1879: Maria Tudor by Antônio Carlos Gomes
  • in 1885: Marion Delorme by Amilcare Ponchielli
  • in 1887: Otello by Giuseppe Verdi
  • in 1889: Edgar by Giacomo Puccini
  • in 1892: La Wally by Alfredo Catalani
  • in 1893: Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi
  • in 1904: Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini
  • in 1924: Nerone by Arrigo Boito
  • in 1926: Turandot by Giacomo Puccini
  • in 1957: Dialogues of the Carmelites by Francis Poulenc
  • in 1981: Donnerstag aus Licht by Karlheinz Stockhausen
  • in 1984: Samstag aus Licht by Karlheinz Stockhausen
  • in 1988: Montag aus Licht by Karlheinz Stockhausen
  • in 2007: Teneke by Fabio Vacchi
  • in 2011: Quartett by Luca Francesconi

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