The new sovrintendente at La Scala, Alexander Pereira, has bought for his first season with the Milanese theatre, seven productions from the Salzburg Festival, where he is currently playing out his last season as its director.
The affair, first reported in the Austrian press, came as a surprise to Milan's Mayor, Giuliano Pisapia, who is Chairman on the Board of Directors at Teatro alla Scala:
I learned of the affair from the press. I'm amazed. I have asked for all the necessary documentation and then will discuss the matter at the next meeting with the board of directors.
That meeting is in two days time, Monday 14 April.
La Repubblica newspaper reported that some board members are saying that as Pereira's contract doesn't start until 1 October he has no power to start buying and selling. This raises the possibility that the outgoing boss has lent a helping hand, Stéphane Lissner.
I have chosen the best productions from the Salzburg Festival, such as as Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg which we did with Daniele Gatti and the Falstaff under Zubin Metha; these were named among the best productions of 2013 by the New York Times.
I could sell my productions to other theatres for more money. La Scala has got a bargain. A new opera production costs around one million euros… the Milanese theatre will pay only about €690,000, a ridiculous price… I've personally given six-million euros to La Scala with this deal.
Giancarlo Albori of the Cgil trade union said that it had already suspected that something was up, and had asked Pisapia for clarification about the future plans for the theatre.
Seemingly the only to defend Pereira is Riccardo Chailly, who will take over from Daniel Barenboim as the new musical director at La Scala. He said that Pereira was a far too experienced a theatre professional to make such a big mistake, so surely he was doing the deal with the theatre's interests at heart.
Certainly there is the possibility of a conflict of interest here, and the fact that the Rome Mayor hadn't been shown the proposal prior to the deal seems very odd. Maybe after Monday's meeting all will be explained. If not, Milan's notoriously difficult public will have been given fresh ammunition from the very person who asked them only a few weeks ago to give the new management a chance.
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.