Next Thursday, 10 October 2013, Milan will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi. La Scala will open its doors for a series of free initiatives including films, recordings, documentaries and readings.
From 10am to 6pm the grand foyer “Arturo Toscanini” will host a giant screen showing documentaries on Verdi’s life, the historic film of the Maestro’s Requiem when the theatre was reopened after repairs following the severe bombing of World War II, and also the last Requiem in the theatre, conducted by Daniel Barenboim, filmed in 2012.
The museum can be entered free of charge too, with a specially mounted exhibition to commemorate the event, and that of the museum’s own 100th Anniversary. Verdi’s original manuscript for his Messa da Requiem will be on display, plus many others documents.
In the main theatre at 8pm, there will be a celebration of his life and work, and two of Italy’s finest actors, Maddalena Crippa and Filippo Timi, will read from Verdi’s letters.
100 years of the La Scala museum
The La Scala Theatre Museum celebrates its 100th Anniversary with an exhibition entitled “1913-2013. Un tesoro centenario”, and it is indeed a treasure overflowing with treasures. On Verdi’s anniversary it can be visited free of charge, but is open until the end of the year.
A great deal of multimedia content together with important items and documents has been organised by Vittoria Crespi Morbio in the rooms of the library which hosts 150,000 volumes. The exhibition is divided in four sections: the beginnings of the museum, the Verdi documents, the Wagner collection, and ‘the protagonists’ with documents by Rossini, Cimarosa, Bellini, Mozart, Beethoven, and Berlioz.
The museum was born by accident. In 1911, in Paris, an antiquario was auctioning a vast collection of theatre and musical memorabilia of great cultural value. American magnate John P Morgan was trying to buy the lot for a planned museum at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
However the Italian government and royalty supported a group of Milanese bourgeoisie who, together with Giacomo Puccini, Umberto Giordano, Arrigo Boito, Ettore Modigliani, Enrico Caruso, and the publishers Ricordi and Sonzogno, succeeded in securing the collection for Milan. This became the basis for the museum, which opened its doors in 1913.
Now the museum has 250,000 visitors a year, and is the second most visited building in Milan, excluding those with free admission.
The oldest book in the collection contains the plays of Plato, and was printed in Venice in 1511, and there are hundreds of other volumes from the 16th and 17th centuries.
The museum houses 2,255 set designs; 6,959 costume designs; 3,000 posters; 6,000 opera librettos; 10, 300 letters by actors, directors, composers and singers; 30 complete manuscripts including Verdi’s Requiem, and Rossini’s Tancredi, and 300 loose pages by Mozart, Beethoven, Donizetti, Bellini, Rossini, Verdi, Puccini and others; 7,000 photographs and 10,000 prints.
This is largely what you don’t see when visiting the museum. What you do see are parts of the vast collection of paintings (singers, composers, actors and dancers), musical instruments, busts, theatre costumes, batons, death masks, ceramics and props. An important museum, in an evocative setting, housed in one of the finest theatres in the world – a must for any itinerary.
La Scala Museum, open every day 9-12.30 and 13.30-17.30
Tickets: €6 – groups €4 – schools €2,50