The opera and ballet season at La Scala opens today. December 7 is the day that Milan celebrates Saint Ambose (Sant’Ambrogio), its Patron Saint who was a Bishop of the city in the 4th century. Schools are shut, there is a large street market around the Sforzesco Castle, and the cherry on the cake is the opera at the Milanese opera house, attended by Presidents, Prime Ministers, models and starlets.
This evening’s Lohengrin has already upset Verdi fans: for the 200th Anniversary celebrations of both Verdi and Wagner (class of 1813) it was expected that the Italian would have won the draw. However, given the beating Cecilia Bartoli took four days ago by a few sad diehards in the upper galleries, the management must be are glad they opted for the German. The elderly critics in the gods last Monday were presumably expecting Bartoli to have transmorphed into the new Cossotto in the few weeks since her latest CD came out, and booed her for having a small voice and singing in falsetto. The risk of staging a Verdi opera which offers easy comparisons to celebrated performances from the ‘50s and ‘60s was too great. So Lohengrin is in place for the gala opening at 5pm with the live tv and cinema broadcast?
Not quite. Apparently due to a persistent flu, Anja Harteros, due to sing Elsa, has been forced to postpone her début in Lohengrin. And with the second cast soprano, Ann Petersen, being similarly indisposed, La Scala was left with one gigantic HD headache. ‘Phoning around Europe they got onto Annette Dasch, who sang the role in 2010 at Bayreuth, and she arrived in Milan last night.
Now surely she can’t be booed… can she?
Photo: from left Anja Harteros, Ann Petersen and Annette Dasch.