Italy’s President, Sergio Mattarella, and other politicians and celebrities attended the new production of Verdi’s opera that opened the opera season at La Scala. On Mattarella’s entrance, there was spontaneous applause for six minutes – his work as President has been widely admired and he will be stepping down in January 2022 – while Riccardo Chailly waited, with his baton aloft, to play the national anthem.
Although Italian theatres reopened to the public in April, and more recently returned to full capacity, since Monday 6 December, only vaccinated people or those who have recently recovered from Covid can enter theatres, cinemas, restaurants and so on. Quick tests are no longer permitted (though they will allow you to take public transport, work, visit the gym, and other activities where you are not seated next to other people for long periods of time).
La Scala’s intendant, Dominique Meyer, said, “When you see so many theatres closed, like the Vienna State Opera, and those in Munich, Dresden and Leipzig, I must say that we are lucky… This year’s season opening is a minor miracle.”
“The reopening of La Scala fills me with joy,” said Giorgio Armani, who had gifted the stunning flower decorations in the theatre made largely from roses and orchids.
The audience and orchestra wore masks, as did Chailly, the evening’s conductor. He maintained his mask during the applause as he is part of a ‘bubble’ with the orchestra. Some of the staging kept the chorus at a distance, and even the choreography had minimal touching.
Italian baritone Luca Salsi was Macbeth, Russian soprano Anna Netrebko was Lady Macbeth, Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov was Banco, Macduff was sung by the Italian tenor Francesco Meli, and Malcolm was played by the Peruvian tenor Iván Ayón Rivas.
The director Davide Livermore staged the opera in an art deco world thrust into the future where swords and Bakelite telephones were present in a projected Blade Runner city which featured London’s Battersea Power Station too. The Macbeth ‘castle’ is a skyscraper called Scottish Court Tower, a pompous Trumpian affair. An eclectic mix. He received some boos during his curtain call.
The opera received a 12-minute ovation.
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.