You may have already read about the refusal of some La Scala workers to perform Turandot on 1 May being that it is the International Workers' Day. However, it is also the opening day of the Milan Expo, and I doubt that the hotels, restaurants, taxis and other services will be refusing to work. The situation was resolved at the last minute and will go ahead with substantial bonuses arriving for the chorus, orchestra and techies.
On the eve of the opening, the Expo asked for a concert in the open-air in front of Milan's magnificent cathedral, the Duomo. Although the full line-up will not be announced until next week, rumour has it that Diana Damrau, Anna Netrebko and Gustavo Dudamel will join Andrea Bocelli, the singer who gave the concert to mark the one year countdown on 1 May last year. The State Television company, the Rai, hasn't yet finally agreed to to sums being discussed but, as time is running out, it is expected that they will do so soon, which will result in the orchestra and chorus receiving fat bonuses: 600% more for the day. This means that a musician on basic pay will receive €500 to €600 extra for the concert, while section leaders will receive €1,000 more in their wage packet.
However, La Scala's Musical Director, Riccardo Chailly, is not happy at all about the concert. He will be conducting the Turandot performances, the first in front of Prime Ministers, Presidents, and other VIPs, and he thinks that distracting the musical forces with two different programmes on consecutive evenings risks lowering the quality of both events. They will also be rehearsing Giorgio Battistelli's new opera CO2 in that period. According to the Repubblica newspaper he says that the open-air concert was insisted on by the Expo committee and he's called it “a right mess”.
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.
Graham, have gotten you some readers from other sites! But, tell me, what was the Milanese reaction to the new Scala “Aida”? No ballet!!!??? I was shocked to see that on youtube.com. And those minimalist, shallow sets???!!! How did the Scala dancers feel not being included in one of the most famous opera ballet sequences?
Thanks for drumming up readers! Stein said that the opera had become synonymous with elephants and dances, yet it is an intimate opera. Agreed, but Verdi wrote the dances, they were not added in later. Stein also said that obviously some people will be disappointed and miss the grandeur but this will be compensated by the intimate staging of the ‘love triangle’. However, most people in Milan seem to be amazed at the decision, especially in “Verdi’s theatre”.
Thanks for the response. Odd that I–and probably many others–have no trouble focusing on the intimate human drama amid all the spectacle. I was surprised that Mr. Stein reverted to lining up all the principals at the footlights for the concertato finale to the Triumphal Scene–everyone facing the audience. Not very creative dramatically. (It was ludicrous to see guards attempting to lift and carry off Sartori at the end!) I just felt sorry that the famous Scala ballet dancers were not showcased as they should be. The dance of the baboons in Amneris’ chambers was, at best, crude and oddly contained too many dancers in such a small space.
Also isn’t it precisely that which creates the drama? The mammoth Egyptian edifices and the royal pomp can do nothing to save broken hearts. That contrast is interesting, it’s no kitchen-sink drama. Verdi knew better.