Certain faces have been lingering around the colonnade, which runs along the left side of La Scala, for decades. One man is often accompanied by a dog, its lead thrown over his shoulder; another has a case which he uses during transactions with ‘clients’. These are the bagarini — La Scala’s ticket touts.
Regular music and ballet fans know who they are, and being that their hunting area is outside the box office (next to the stage door), many of the theatre workers know who they are too. However, they have proved resilient to various efforts to remove them over the years.
La Scala is now starting a more serious clampdown on secondary ticketing. It has started printing names on tickets for special events, including the prestigious opening of the opera season on 7 December, and yesterday it fired one of the box-office staff who was passing on tickets to touts: both the loiterers around the box-office entrance and the more modern online variety.
The theatre’s reason for firing the box-office assistant was because he sold tickets “in blatant and conscious violation of the company’s allocation policy”, which meant that he was taking tickets away from regular opera and ballet lovers in the queue, to give to the touts. But the theatre management has adopted software to enable the traceability of each ticket. So, through a series of digital checks, it was able to discover what was being done and who was doing it.
The unions were in favour of the move, saying that all tickets should have the theatregoer’s name printed on them, and that access to the auditorium should be with a tickets and ID, as in an airport.
Online ticket touting
Online selling has become the theatre’s latest headache, and numerous legal efforts to block the practice have been unsuccessful. I looked at one such site:
The last stalls ticket, in row V, for the special cut-price preview performance of season opener Andrea Chénier, intended for under-30s, has been snapped up for €526. Imagine the elderly Japanese tourist, who arrives with his expensive ticket, being asked by the theatre ushers for his ID to prove he’s under 30-years-old.
Get the worst seat in the house — an upper-slips ticket with a restricted view — for the opera’s opening of Andrea Chénier on 7 December for €230; an unrestricted view from the gods will cost €667. If you’d prefer a stalls seat, then (again in row V) a ticket can be had for later in the run for €1,071, though on the same day, by going through La Scala’s official booking system, a row H ticket can still be had for ‘just’ €300.
A seat, again on that magical row V, which normally costs €180 for the ballet La dame aux camélias, will set you back €860.
To allow friends and family of the theatre’s artists see productions without shelling out hundreds of Euros, dress rehearsals are often made available to them with the theatre handing out free tickets. However, these are also being sold, and among the casually dressed Italians for an afternoon rehearsal are tourists dressed up to the nines to go to “La Scala”.
The theatre has announced its intention to further increase its efforts to eliminate ticket scalping, and it will continue to introduce new controls to its ticket system.
Tickets for events at La Scala can be bought online through its site: teatroallascala.org
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.