The anticipation surrounding the opening night of the annual opera season at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala opera house reaches fever pitch by late autumn. Traditionally, La Scala’s opera season opens on 7 December, which is the feast day of St Ambrose, the patron saint of the city. Critics, journalists and the music-loving public follow events at La Scala with an eagle eye because the theatre is not just Italy’s most famous and prestigious opera house, it is arguably the most important opera house in the world.
Ticket prices for the opening night at La Scala can cost thousands of euros. Despite such steep prices, getting hold of them is not easy as people rush for the chance to witness the most important event in the musical year and the most glamorous in Italy’s social calendar. La Scala audiences are notoriously critical and even the most experienced performers have met with a scathing response from the theatre’s, possibly fussy, spectators. Nevertheless, the opera house has witnessed an impressive array of premieres by major artists including Gioacchino Rossini and Karlheinz Stockhausen.
The opera house first opened in 1778 with ‘Europa riconosciuta’ (Europe Revealed), by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s rival Antonio Salieri. La Scala endured various incarnations over the years and underwent extensive renovations in the 21st century, reopening in 2004. The crimson silk upholstered gilt boxes and seats of the horseshoe-shape were restored to their luxurious glory, while the technical areas were modernised to become state of the art – even the theatre’s stage machinery moves horizontally as well as vertically. Today, La Scala’s magnificent Neoclassical exterior belies the sophistication of the technology that lies at the heart of its operatic and ballet dance productions, which complements the skills of the world’s most talented musicians.
Where: Teatro alla Scala, 2 Via Filodrammatici, 20121 Milan