Today’s the day, tonight’s the night. Milan celebrates Saint Ambrose (Sant’Ambrogio) and La Scala celebrates Giuseppe Verdi with a new production of La Traviata to open its 2013-2014 season.
This is no ordinary opening, with tickets costing €2,000 in the stalls, and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, together with the President of the Senate, Pietro Grasso, and President of the Chamber of Deputies, Laura Boldini, in the Royal Box. The theatre will be full of stars who have contributed to the theatre’s magical allure, such as Carla Fracci, and starlets competing for media attention.
Thousands of white flowers will decorate the auditorium, but no camellias as they are stuck in Holland due to bad weather.
Spumante will be served in La Scala’s glamorous foyers, and several princely dinners will be held after the curtain comes down.
On stage, Russian director and set designer, Dmitri Tcherniakov, will try to recreate the success of his Eugene Onegin which the Bolshoi Opera brought to Milan in 2009. Milanese conductor, Daniele Gatti, will open up all the cuts, execute all the da capo sections, and will ‘allow’ variations and cadenzas. It will be Diana Damrau’s second outing with Violetta, after her début in the role at the Metropolitan earlier this year. Her Alfredo is Piotr Beczala, Germont is Željko Lučić, and , curiously, Mara Zampieri will be Annina.
Outside the theatre a flotilla of tv vans have laid out trails of spaghetti which lead from the stone pavement to the gilded boxes where cameras are positioned for tonight’s live relay on Italian television, mega-screens in various piazzas in Lombardy, and in cinemas throughout the world. A nice note is that in Hungary it will be transmitted on MTV.
Barriers cordon off the area in front of the theatre as, surely this year, when many families are finding it difficult to make ends meet, protesters will be at the ready with banners, placards, and a few eggs for the fur wearers.
In Italy, where theatricality is part of everyday life, the drama in the foyers and outside La Scala, often threatens to upstage the drama on stage. But it all looks exciting on paper, and word of mouth has it that it should be a memorable evening. In bocca al lupo!
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.