La Scala’s season traditionally opens on 7th December, the feast day of Saint Ambrose, Milan’s patron saint
Often referred to simply as La Scala, Milan’s opera house ranks among the best in the world. Milan’s previous theatre, the Teatro Regio Ducale, was destroyed by a fire in 1776; ninety wealthy, querulous Milanese then clubbed together to ask Archduke Ferdinand of Austria for a new one. They got their way: the church of Santa Maria alla Scala was demolished and within two years La Scala was built on its site, keeping only the name.
Construction was funded by the sale of lavish private boxes and La Scala soon became a popular meeting place for the noble and the rich. The gallery, found above the boxes, was open to the (slightly) less wealthy. These loggionisti could be very vocally critical of performances — and this remains true today. In a truly operatic piece of melodrama in 2006, Roberto Alagna stormed off stage when he was booed by the loggionisti, meaning that his understudy - in T-shirt and jeans - had to be rushed on mid-scene to replace him.
Mostly, however, the drama is kept on stage. Since its inauguration, La Scala’s stage has been graced by many classic operas, from those of Verdi to those of Puccini, and its theatre has been filled by some of the world’s marvellous voices, including Pavarotti, Placid Domingo, Diana Damrau and Cecilia Bartoli. It’s a venue that truly deserves its reputation.
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