The secret of the fascination that Teatro alla Scala holds over the minds of music-lovers worldwide lies in the musical events which have unfolded here since its opening in 1778, rather than in the impressive design of the opera house itself. It was at Teatro alla Scala that hosted the world premieres of operatic treasures like Vincenzo Bellini's Norma, Gaetano Donizzetti's Lucrezia Borgia, Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco, Otello and Falstaff, Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Turandot and Francis Poulenc's Dialogues des carmélites. All of the world's greatest opera singers and conductors have performed on this stage. There was a time when Teatro alla Scala was home to Maria Callas whose first appearance at La Scala earned her a lukewarm reception; the great singer took it as a challenge and continued to work at the opera house saying: You will be at my feet!
Like many 18th-century European opera houses, La Scala is the child of a fire: in Milan it was the burnt-down Teatro Regio Ducale that inspired to build a new opera. There was something almost barbaric about the way the city went about the task: to clear a plot for the new structure, the Church of Santa Maria alla Scala was torn down to the ground. In twenty-three months, a simple Classicist building featuring Apollo driving the chariot of Sun on its fronton and an auditorium encircled by five balconies and seating some 2000 spectators was erected in its place. Retaining the name of the former church, Teatro alla Scala opened with a performance of Antonio Salieri's L´Europa Riconsciuta.
La Scala was almost completely destroyed during World War II - only to be rebuilt in a record time and reopen only a year after the end of the war with a gala conducted by the great Arturo Toscanini.
The haste left its mark on the restored building, resulting in a somewhat strange 'new' acoustics. The cause of the peculiarity was finally identified: it turned out that Italian builders had 'cleared off' the construction waste to a space right under the orchestra pit. Stormy debate regarding the necessity of a new reconstruction ensued until finally the opera house was actually indeed closed down for three years in the Noughties to modernise the stage equipment and put in order the acoustics in keeping with the latest standards while painstakingly preserving the historical decor of the lobby and the auditorium. The new and improved Teatro alla Scala opened its doors on 7 December 2004, symbolically with a performance of the piece performed at the inauguration in 1778: Antonio Salieri's L´Europa Riconsciuta, this time - under the baton of Riccardo Muti.
Incidentally, it is generally held that at La Scala, the best spot for watching and listening to any opera is Parterre Box 18.
Via Filodrammatici 2
Keywords: Opera House, Milan