Despite the interruptions imposed by lockdowns and outbreaks of disease during the Season 2020-2021 La Scala managed to put on over 100 performances. The various closures also gave the theatre’s management a period of reflection, gleaning ideas for reorganising the theatre’s structure so that when the public returns it will enter a renovated, more modern, more welcoming and more sustainable structure. Details are listed below.
During the 2021-2022 Season, La Scala will present 13 opera productions, only one of which has already been seen by Milanese audiences: nine are new productions and three are from other theatres. The choice of repertoire and performers is based on a principle of variety and balance to allow audiences to hear and see a wide range of works and artists.
The centrality of the Italian tradition is confirmed with eight titles from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, but there will also be operas from the French, Russian, Austrian, German and English repertoire. Two operas will be performed at La Scala for the first time: Thaïs by Massenet and The Tempest by Adès.
Giuseppe Verdi is the only composer present with three titles, the others have one each, and even among performers, only a few artists appear in more than one production. Alongside Music Director Riccardo Chailly, maestri such as Daniel Barenboim, Valery Gergiev, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Christian Thielemann will appear, authoritative performers such as Ottavio Dantone, Evelino Pidò and Tugan Sokhiev will return as well as two talented 30-year-olds, Lorenzo Viotti and Michele Gamba.
New opera productions
Music Director Riccardo Chailly conducts two new productions of Verdi titles: the Season-opening Macbeth, directed by Davide Livermore with a cast including Anna Netrebko, Luca Salsi, Francesco Meli and Ildar Abdrazakov, and Un ballo in maschera with Sondra Radvanovsky, Francesco Meli, and Luca Salsi: an occasion for the directorial debut of Marco Arturo Marelli, who is appreciated in European theatres for his elegant and essential style.
Vincenzo Bellini, the least performed of the great Italian opera composers of the 19th century, returns with I Capuleti e i Montecchi conducted by Evelino Pidò, directed by Adrian Noble, making his debut at La Scala, and a cast consisting of Lisette Oropesa, Marianne Crebassa, René Barbera and Michele Pertusi.
The third directorial debut is with the volcanic Olivier Py for the Milan premiere of Massenet’s Thaïs under the baton of Lorenzo Viotti with Marina Rebeka, Ludovic Tézier and Francesco Demuro.
Valery Gergiev, returns to conduct Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades directed by Matthias Hartmann, with Asmik Grigorian (alternating with Elena Guseva) and Najmiddin Mavlyanov.
Frédéric Chaslin, a conductor and composer, makes his debut at La Scala with La Gioconda by Amilcare Ponchielli in a production by Davide Livermore, starring Sonya Yoncheva, Daniela Barcellona, Judit Kutasi, Fabio Sartori, Roberto Frontali and Erwin Schrott.
La Scala presents a new production of Rigoletto directed by Mario Martone and the young conductor Michele Gamba, with Enkhbat Amartüvshin, Nadine Sierra and Piero Pretti in the cast.
The Academy performance this year looks back to the 18th century with Cimarosa’s Il matrimonio segreto and the young students will be guided musically by Ottavio Dantone and scenically by Irina Brook, a master of irony who recently made her debut with a diptych of works by Kurt Weill conducted by Riccardo Chailly.
Umberto Giordano’s Fedora will be reinterpreted with a cinematographic gaze by Mario Martone and Margherita Palli with Marco Armiliato on the podium with Sonya Yoncheva and Roberto Alagna.
Productions from other theatres and revivals
Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur returns to La Scala in the David McVicar’s production for Covent Garden and marks the La Scala debut of Milanese Giampaolo Bisanti, conductor at Bari’s Teatro Petruzzelli. Two casts alternate between Maria Agresta and Anna Netrebko, Freddie De Tommaso in his La Scala debut and Yusif Eyvazov, Anita Rachvelishvili and Elena Zhidkova, and Alessandro Corbelli and Ambrogio Maestri.
Don Giovanni, the only revival of the Season, returns in Robert Carsen’s acclaimed production that opened the 2011-2012 Season, with Pablo Heras-Casado’s debut and a cast including Christopher Maltman, Alex Esposito, Hanna-Elisabeth Müller, Emily D’Angelo and Bernard Richter.
From the Wiener Staatsoper comes Sven-Eric Bechtolf’s elegant 20th-century staging of Ariadne auf Naxos. Here, too, there is a debut on the podium, that of Michael Boder, with Krassimira Stoyanova, Stephen Gould, and Erin Morley as Zerbinetta.
In 2022 the contemporary opera in the Season is a modern masterpiece, never heard in Milan before, in a production which is partly set in La Scala’s foyer: The Tempest by Thomas Adès in Robert Lepage production, which was co-produced by the Metropolitan and Wiener Staatsoper, and concludes the season which also opened with a Shakespearean story. The composer will be on the podium and Leigh Melrose and Isabel Leonard sing the leads.
Between September and November, before the start of the new Season, La Scala presents 5 opera productions, 2 of which are new and one of which was seen just on a single evening. La Scala reopens with an explosion of joy in three of Rossini’s comic masterpieces, staging a historic production of Ponnelle’s L’italiana in Algeri conducted by Dantone, a major new production of Il barbiere di Siviglia conducted by Riccardo Chailly and directed by Leo Muscato, and the production Il turco in Italia conducted by Diego Fasolis and directed by Roberto Andò that was staged for one performance before the lockdown. The staging of La Calisto by Francesco Cavalli, directed by David McVicar and conducted by Christophe Rousset, brings a fundamental composer of the Venetian school to La Scala for the first time, inaugurating a project on Italian Baroque that will be developed over the next years. Opera was born in Italy and the first centuries of its history offer an inexhaustible musical and theatrical richness. The latest opera title is the revival of L’elisir d’amore conducted by Michele Gamba. Among the most important projects cancelled by the pandemic in 2020 is undoubtedly the premiere of Madina, the result of a collaboration between composer Fabio Vacchi and choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti. Madina will be revived in October with étoile Roberto Bolle and Michele Gamba conducting.
Today the theatre announced:
A new philosophy: an inclusive and accessible Scala
La Scala already has a substantial percentage of ticket revenues: we have no desire to raise this percentage or break records with a policy of high prices. On the contrary, we must clearly state that the world of classical music is not suffering from a crisis of interest on the part of the public, but sometimes from a price drift that has caused many fans to turn away. La Scala needs a strategy of inclusion and we have already given some important signals for the next Season. Subscription rounds have been reduced from 5 to 4 and the number of titles in the subscription has decreased. In the past, La Scala has had a very high percentage of seats in the highest price bracket: the entire stalls and a great many seats in the boxes. We reshaped the Theatre’s layout by introducing a second price band in the stalls and differentiating prices within the boxes, further reducing the price of seats with poor visibility. Finally, we have aligned the guest orchestra concerts with those of the theatre’s symphonic season, with the best seats selling for €95.
A project that is particularly close to our hearts is “Un palco in famiglia” (A box for the family), created with the support of [the supermarket chain] Esselunga, which will allow adults who buy a full-price seat in some boxes to buy additional seats at €15 for under-18s. Subscriptions and previews also continue for the Under30s, which for years have been bringing young adults closer together and helping to form the new audience at La Scala.
La Scala transformation during the next decade
La Scala is imagining its future with ambitious projects that are part of the city’s transformation. On 26 April we laid the foundation stone for the new building on Via Verdi, which will complete the design architect Botta conceived in the early 2000s and bring together all the Theatre’s offices in a single complex, expand the stage and provide musicians with a state-of-the-art rehearsal and recording studio. In the meantime, the plan to build a citadel of theatre and music in the Rubattino area [to the east of the city] is progressing, bringing together warehouses, workshops and opportunities for artistic production, contributing to the new appearance of the area.
Within the theatre, we have launched three innovation projects. The first is a technological plan to promote digital innovation, which will have an impact on procedures and the organisation of work, but also on the broadcasting of performances, which will be filmed by a system of fixed cameras that will facilitate streaming in collaboration with RAI [television], and for the spectators, who in 2022 will find a tablet in the back of the seat in front of them with the translation of texts in eight languages and a series of additional services.
The second, which is a consequence of the first, is an ecological sustainability plan that will include reducing the use of paper, increasing the percentage of recycled waste, the choice of materials for fittings and the use of renewable energy in line with a process that has already begun.
Finally, we have decided to equip our theatre with an inclusion project that will enhance the talent and professionalism of women in both the artistic and organisational sectors, ensuring that they can emerge in proportion to their talent, equal pay and dignity in the workplace.
The project we are presenting is ambitious and complex. Our commitment to building a theatre that is increasingly capable of meeting the challenges of the coming years must start with an overall vision of the Scala we want, in which artistic excellence, production capacity, administrative simplification and services to our audiences go hand in hand and are harmoniously integrated into the development of a city that is starting up again.
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.