When we say opera, there is probably none greater than the La Scala (or more formally known as Teatro alla Scala). Undoubtedly, it is one of the most important and popular opera houses in Italy and the world. Attending an opera performance at La Scala is an all-important part of your visit to Milan
La Scala is located at Via Filodrammatici 2, right at the heart of Milan's city center, near the famous Duomo.
Most of the greatest and famous operas of the nineteenth century held their first performances in this grand opera house. In fact, it was with the musical masterpieces of Gioacchino Rossini that the La Scala Opera house gained worldwide acclaim. And it has continued to be a landmark in terms of opera from that time on. Other opera premieres witnessed by this theatre are Verdi's Otello and Falstaff, Puccini's Turandot and Madame Butterfly and Bellini's Norma.
The Empress Maria Teresa of Austria had this theatre built after Milan's Teatro Regio Ducale was razed to the ground by fire in 1776. It stands in what used to be the site of the Church of Santa Maria alla Scala, hence its name. It soon became the meeting place of the nobility and the wealthy.
Just recently, it underwent extensive and controversial renovations that focused on the auditorium, the stage and sounds. This renovation cost $70 million and took three years to complete. Two structures by Mario Botta (a Swiss architect) were added to the rooftop. Since its reopening last December 2004, it now boasts of state of the art technology used in the stage that contributes a lot in bringing the world's greatest operas to life. Inside, though, it has retained the lavish decorations and design that include a magnificent carved ceiling, seats covered in magenta velvet and elaborately gilded boxes.
Aside from the main theatre that can seat 3,600, there is the La Piccola Scala (a smaller theatre for chamber music performances), a ballet school, a ballet company and an opera museum. It is also home to the celebrated La Scala di Milano opera company. As for aspiring musicians and performers, La Scala also houses the Accademia d'Arti e Mestieri dello Spettacolo or the Academy for the Performing Arts. The Museo Treatrale alla Scala features costumes, instruments, props, posters, librettos, design sketches, viewing box décor, curtains and other memorabilia. It also has a wonderful collection of phonographs and gramaphones, as well as interactive exhibits and a detailed presentation of the opera house's reconstruction project.
Take note, tickets are quickly sold out so plan well in advance. The tickets are up for sale two months prior to an opera's first performance. The season at La Scala begins in early December, traditionally on December 7, which is the feast day of Milan's patron saint, Saint Ambrose. The season continues up until the middle of June. Of course, seats to the La Scala are hard to come by and are expensive, but definitely worth it. The roster of the latest operas include Macbeth, 1984, Cyrano de Bergerac, Trittico Pucciniano, 1984, The Prisoner – Duke Bluebeard's Caslte and La Boheme.