Well, we have a profit of €300,000 – says Dominique Meyer, CEO of La Scala – Of course, there were surprises during the year and in September the theatre was still not open at full capacity, so could have sold more tickets for the new production of The Barber of Seville, but things then improved and the accounts even exceeded our expectations.
We lost a few subscriptions among the elderly because of Covid, but we thought we’d lose the tourists and yet they’ve come back; on average, 22% [of the audience]. Of course, there are no Russians, Asians or Chinese, but the Europeans are back, especially the French, Swiss and Austrians. In addition, we’ve discovered something interesting: only a third of our audience is over 55 years old.
This is the result of a policy that La Scala has been pursuing for years, started by my predecessor Stéphane Lissner, with cheaper season tickets available for those under 30. I would like to do more because it’s not as if once someone is over 30 they earn enough to be able to afford full-price tickets. We are trying to find a system to continue with this type of season ticket even afterwards and to accompany the young audience towards becoming traditional subscribers. The fact that the majority of the audience is younger gives us confidence.
In Italy, mask-wearing from the beginning of May in shops and restaurants will no longer be required, though in theatres and on public transport it will be compulsory at least until mid-June.
If we tell everyone to take off their masks then we will have more positives and we will have even more problems unless we no longer consider a person who tests positive [without symptoms] to be sick and remove all the rules for those who are infected. It is certainly true that Italy is the last country where masks are still compulsory in the theatre.
[In this Covid period] we’ve had to find solutions every day: for the dress rehearsal of Ariadne auf Naxos, we had to make four cast changes and only now have we got the original cast. So far, we have managed to do all the performances, but it was not a foregone conclusion.
I have managed to complete the programming of the seasons until the end of my term as CEO. When you book artists in advance, you have more freedom of choice. [As for Gergiev], when for any reason you lose an important artist it is always upsetting, but when it is necessary to do something like this you do it.
I don’t think there will be big problems [when Anna Netrebko returns on 27 May]. I think she acted in the beginning only for the safety of her family, but then she said how she thinks. I am not for witch hunts especially when I know those people. I know Anna well and she is not a Joan of Arc of Putinism.
Next season, in December, La Scala opens with a Russian opera.
It’s a coincidence. We decided on it two years ago. Boris Godunov is a wonderful opera and we all remember the beautiful production conducted by Abbado and directed by Ljiubimov which opened the 1979/80 season.
After Jacopo Tissi, the Italian principal dancer with the Bolshoi Theatre, left due to the conflict, he returned to his ‘home’ theatre.
When Jacopo left Moscow, we let him come to La Scala and he did dance class with the company right from the start. I spoke about the situation with Ballet Director Manuel Legris and we decided to welcome him with open arms. We are happy to have him in the house, together with the other artists who are having so many remarkable successes at this time.
The streaming project
La Scala will have an internal group of nine people who will only deal with streaming. Experimental filming of performances has been underway for weeks. La Scala’s relationship with the national broadcaster, Rai television, will remain, but the internal structure will be able not only to film performances for streaming subscribers, but also to provide the necessary resources to other television networks.
We are recording our shows to create a collection [for online streaming]. I would like to complete the international commercial arrangements first, and we still need to find partners for some countries. We are preparing subtitles in eight languages. I also want to involve the schools: when I was in Vienna we involved 700 schools and I would like to do the same in Milan.
Dominique Meyer was talking to La Repubblica’s Andrea Montanari
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.