La Scala’s board of directors met today to discuss Saudi Arabia’s 15 million euro donation to the theatre’s coffers. Three million have already been advanced with an additional 100,000 euros given to the theatre’s Academy.
In return the Saudis were to have received two concerts by La Scala’s orchestra in Riyadh, where in 2020 Zubin Mehta would have also conducted a concert performance of La traviata, as well as the La Scala Foundation creating a music academy in the country. Most controversially they, or the petrol company, Saudi Aramco, would have had a place on the theatre’s board.
However, this type of procedure is not permissible according to the Statute of the La Scala Foundation. Attilio Fontana, the Governor of the Lombardy Region said that the theatre’s Intendant, Alexander Pereira, should be sacked for brokering such a deal without following the correct procedure and inviting on to the board of directors a figure representing a country that doesn’t respect human rights issues.
Pereira said that no one had opposed the suggestion of the offer and that it was the Lega political party (led by Matteo Salvini, and which currently governs the Lombardy Region) that had brought in the Saudis to La Scala, a suggestion that enraged the far-right party.
Today’s board meeting led to the decision to give back the money already advanced by Prince Badr on 4 March, though not ruling out the possibility of future collaborations by following the correct channels.
Alexander Pereira’s contract with the opera house finishes in 2020 and many newspapers and politicians are speculating that it will not be extended.
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.