In today's edition of La Repubblica, it is reported that the new director of the corps de ballet at La Scala will be Mauro Bigonzetti.
The announcement is not yet official but apparently the decision has been made and the theatre's General Manager, Alexander Pereira, has met with union representatives to tell them of his choice.
It is a choice that will surprise many as Bigonzetti's background is very different from that of the traditional classical company at La Scala, which forays every now and then into a more contemporary repertoire, as it did recently with Bigonzetti's new production of Cinderella. As the director of the Aterballetto company he has been creating contemporary pieces for them, as well as being a guest choreographer for many important international companies. His formation was classical, having trained at Rome Opera Ballet's school and worked for a couple of years in the company. However, when he was 23 he joined Aterballetto where he has been, as a dancer and then choreographer, ever since.
Some of the La Scala dancers told the paper's Teresa Monestiroli,
We have nothing personal against Bigonzetti, but we believe that it would be suitable to appoint a person who has more classical background, together with an experience managing a large company such as that of La Scala. Aterballetto is a private company with fewer than 40 dancers which specialises in contemporary dance. Even Vaziev, who came after heading the Mariinsky in St Petersburg, had difficulty in settling in.
However, the decision seems to have been made. Vaziev left ten days ago to take over at the Bolshoi, leaving the company without a captain at the helm. The sea ahead is full of icebergs which could potentially capsize an already unstable ship. The company has made miraculous technical progresses under Vaziev's leadership – the corps de ballet has never been better – but recent repertoire choices have been bizarre to say the least: a chamber-piece, Cello Suites, in La Scala's vast auditorium; an oddly minimalist Nutcracker following on the heels of Nureyev's sumptuous production; and Bigonzetti's own Cinderella which left a lot of critics, fans (and some of the dancers themselves) deluded. If Bigonzetti is confirmed as the its director, I hope that he will put some of his own choreographic ambitions aside and concentrate on the tradition and future of a great company.
La Scala is not a small scale contemporary group, even if the personal taste of the theatre's Managing Director seems to indicate that he wants to turn it into one. La Scala is the only world-class ballet company in Italy and it can't be left to sink because of the personal whims of a few influential managers who will anyway move on to other jobs in a decade. Such appointments represent an enormous responsibility for the future of a company and those who work in it, young dancers who have trained for years to reach that rarefied level of dance which allows them to confront the most difficult ballets in the classical repertoire, and where better to present those ballets than on Milan's legendary stage. These dancers and this theatre cannot be disappointed.
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.