An opera house is a small town. It has its mayor, school, shop, laundry, theatre, restaurant, factory. There are people who construct things, clean, teach, cook, entertain, keep fit, buy and sell.
Damiano Mastandrea sold tickets for as long as I've been attending performances at La Scala; one of the large team that keeps town life buzzing. Those in the press office we don't see, singers and dancers are far away across the void of the orchestra pit (which also serves to hide the musicians), vocal coaches and ballet masters hidden in rehearsal rooms, techies beaver away backstage. It is the programme sellers, ushers, bartenders and box-office staff who meet and greet the town's visitors.
Damy was one of those who all La Scala regulars knew: he handed them envelopes with tickets, handled their credit cards, and usually gave them his boyish grin while doing so. He was well known by the artists too who desperately had to find a seat for Mum to see their first solo or needed a pair of seats to celebrate Zia Maria's wedding anniversary. He was at the receiving end of abuse when the star cancelled and anger when strike action meant that there was no set. He sorted out problems on the fly because, even if many things in Italy don't run on time, at La Scala an 8pm curtain means 8pm sharp. As a friend he was playful, impish, moody, eccentric, charming, practical and generous.
He was born on St Valentine's day, 56 years ago and died yesterday evening after a brief but intense battle with cancer.
The rose emoji is the symbol that Damy always used to conclude a WhatsApp chat:🌹
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.
Our friends that we encounter regularly, that are mainstays, that we see through Seasons, give the shape to our lives, the comfort of familiar shared reactions. Sad indeed to loose such a good man.
How sad what a wonderful man shirleycahill
Obviously a wonderful friend of the arts. He was born on Valentine’s Day something he reflected with his love for L’Scala. Rest In peace Damiano Mastandrea.