Yesterday, after 199 days, La Scala reopened its doors to the public with a concert by its Orchestra and Chorus. 500 spectators (normal capacity, 2,000) occupied the boxes and galleries with the musicians in the stalls and the chorus on stage. On the podium was the theatre’s music director Riccardo Chailly who was facing the audience for once, though occasionally had to turn to give indications to the chorus behind him.
Dignitaries and important guests were present – the mayor Beppe Sala, the president of Lombardy Attilio Fontana, the granddaughter of the mayor during the reconstruction years after the war, and the great-grandson of Arturo Toscanini.
After Milan was liberated from fascism, the first mayor was Antonio Greppi, and today, on the 75th anniversary of the inauguration concert of the reconstructed opera house, a plaque was unveiled in his memory in La Scala’s foyer.
La Scala was bombed in August 1943, but soon after the end of the war the opera house was ready to welcome back the Milanese public and on 11 May 1946 Toscanini was once again on the podium. Toscanini had been attacked by the Fascists in Bologna in 1931 for refusing to perform “Giovinezza”, which was the official hymn of the Italian National Fascist Party, and then forced into exile in the United States. La Scala’s chorusmaster, Vittore Veneziani, was also making a return to La Scala with that concert because he had been dismissed from his position because of his Jewish origins.
Yesterday’s concert is being streamed today on the anniversary of Toscanini’s concert and can be seen on RaiPlay, raicultura.it and teatroallascala.org (available for a week) and later on Rai Radio3 and on the Euroradio circuit.
Soprano Lise Davidsen made an impressive Scala debut singing “When I am Laid in Earth” from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, “Pace, pace mio Dio” from Verdi’s La forza del destino, and “Dich, teure Halle” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser.
Also in the programme was “Va’, pensiero” from Nabucco sung by the chorus wearing facemasks. “Va’, pensiero” was also performed at the concert 75 years ago.
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.