Google Arts & Culture is a non-profit initiative with the tech giant working alongside cultural institutions and artists around the world to bring some of the world’s art and culture online so that it can be accessible to anyone, anywhere.
La Scala Opera House has teamed up with Google Arts & Culture to bring online the largest opera house archive, with images from operas, ballets and concerts, with designs, and scores. Thanks to Google’s Street View – which usually helps you to spy on the new house your friend has bought or find your way around a city centre to find a particular pub – you can wander around La Scala’s auditorium, foyers, stage and corridors.
With the aid of Google’s technicians, 240,000 archival photos and 16,000 documents have been scanned. More than 40 digital exhibits and close-up views of costumes worn by the many stars who have stepped on the famous stage can also be seen. There are also backstage videos with ‘making-of’ features.
A real treat is a 360° view from the room where the follow-spot operators work which is situated above the famous chandelier.
There is a moving video tribute for coronavirus times with 92 musicians (6 soloists, 26 choristers, 60 musicians) performing from their homes. It is a concertato from Simon Boccanegra that fittingly represents a story of unity and resilience.
There’s a lot to explore, from the familiar, for some, to rare documents and photos. The manuscript archive contains many curiosities “from an unknown composition by Mozart to Paganini’s will”. There’s a bizarre ‘explore by colour’ section, presumably more useful when Google Arts & Culture explores an art gallery.
It can be frustrating when you feel that Google is in charge and leading you by the hand, but using the site search it is quick to home in on a favourite work or artist.
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.