The first audience to witness Alexei Ratmansky's new ballet consisted entirely of ‘Under 30s', La Scala's scheme to attract a new and younger audience. Tickets cost just €10, and the two opening productions of the season – La Traviata and Serata Ratmansky – are previewed three days before the official opening. Not bad value for money when you get Diana Damrau, Piotr Beczala, Roberto Bolle, Andrey Merkuriev and Svetlana Zakharova in the casts, spanking-new productions, and all the frisson of a ‘prima'. Season tickets are also available for three operas and three ballets during the rest of the season where you get six productions for the price of one. Oh, to be under thirty again.
This audience is completely different from the usual La Scala crowd, with its significant component of distracted business sponsors and world-weary regulars. The atmosphere of eager anticipation is infectious, and, surely, those positive vibes reach across the orchestra pit and charge the company, for the La Scala Ballet Company was in excellent form. Bizarrely, the company issued a statement a few days ago saying that if the performance wasn't up to scratch it wasn't their fault, listing changes of schedule and last minute variations in the choreography as justification. Apart from the fact that it seems scarcely professional to make declarations of this kind – and that it automatically makes the audience look out for uncertainty and errors – it surely was not necessary: all three ballets, including Opera, the new creation, were rapturously received.
One palco at La Scala held six young women, winners of a competition on Twitter, launched by a video with Roberto Bolle. Three of the winners had never visited La Scala before, and one arrived from Romania for the occasion.
One fourteen-year-old boy said, “I like the ballet, but I prefer opera, especially Wagner.” A couple in their early twenties, dressed up to the nines, remarked that it was their first time at the ballet, but being that they were both students at the Milan Conservatoire they were emotional at seeing music represented in movement. Two teenage girls giggled because after the interval was Opera with Bolle, “We love Roberto.”
Strangely, the sea of cell phone screens was calmer than during a normal performance, where flashes and illuminated faces from the dark are getting increasingly frustrating. The applause was warmer, the foyer was happier. All said, it was fun to be an Under 30 again.
A review of Serata Ratmansky will be online on 18 December.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.