Well finally the Expo-season 2014-2015 at La Scala has been announced, with Alexander Pereira sitting chummily next to the smiling Milan mayor, Giuliano Pisapia. After the intrigue around the programming which caused the press conference to announce plans for the new season to be shelved, Pereira has accepted the terms to stay as the head of La Scala only until the end of next year. Though, of course, in more than a year’s time it may be a case of forgive and forget.
There will be more than 100 events during the six months when Milan hosts the World Expo. For the first time, scaling of ticket prices has been introduced with higher prices for repertory operas, and lower prices by 50% for contemporary works.
Fidelio will open the season on the city’s Saint’s Day, 7 December, with Daniel Barenboim in the pit and Deborah Warner directing. It will be followed by another 16 operas – unheard of in this house which this year produced a more normal 10 operas – with 7 ballets, concerts, recitals, and new projects for children and low-cost events.
Turandot will open the programme for the Expo, part of a new cycle of Puccini operas, all of which will be conducted Riccardo Chailly, who becomes the theatre’s Principal Conductor from 1 January 2015 and will become the Musical Director in 2017. In October of this year, Chailly will also conduct the Verdi Requiem with Anja Harteros, Elīna Garanĉa, Jonas Kaufmann and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo in memory of Claudio Abbado. Pereira wants to see a Verdi Requiem in all future seasons.
For the ballet there is a new Nutcracker with choreography by Nacho Duato, and Alexei Ratmansky will create a new Sleeping Beauty in a co-production with the American Ballet Theatre with Svetlana Zakharova and David Hallberg.
La Scala will also be programming especially for children; not performances reserved only for schools, but operas adapted for a younger audience, interpreted by the students of La Scala’s Academy. Rossini’s La Cenerentola is the first to get a makeover, which the theatre hopes will be seen by 25,000 children from Milan and Lombardy.
Starting from 2015 there will be a new series called ‘La Scala Aperta’: twenty operas and ballets which will have half-price tickets available from a month before the performance, with the hope of allowing access to a wider public.
Pereira has asked for journalists and the public to give the new artistic team “a period of kindness” so that many artists might return to La Scala who, at this time, stay away for fear of being booed.
Ten out of thirty of the greatest artists in the world have told me that they won’t come to La Scala because they are afraid of the audience.
He said that if a change was perceived then maybe some of these singers could be enticed back. One has already said yes: Roberto Abbado who left during performances of Aida, offended by the booing, will return in November to conduct Werther, and later in the season, Tosca. While on the subject, after the disgraceful booing of Cecilia Bartoli in 2012, she’ll be back on 27 October 2015 to close the International Orchestras programme for the Expo with Diego Fasolis and I Barocchistia in a Vivaldi recital. Pereira also announced that he’d already found €4 million in sponsorship for the coming season.
In a letter to the press he concludes,
I ask you to be on our side in this new adventure and I can assure you that we will dedicate all our energy, our love for this theatre and our enthusiasm to convince you that La Scala must always be part of our lives.
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.