La Scala of Milan: Where music meets history


Teatro alla Scala is one of the most renowned opera houses in the world

Teatro alla Scala. There is no introduction needed for the world’s most eminent opera house. Few theatres have the prestige, history, or whimsy as this beloved house of music.

Sitting at the foot of one the most recognizable fashion streets in the world, via Montenapoleone, Teatro alla Scala is a fine example of the abundance, extravagance and sophistication of Italy’s fashion capital. On this street you can find the world’s top fashion houses such as Armani, Prada and Gucci, alongside shops from shoe designers Giuseppe Zanotti, and Jimmy Choo, and high-end jewellers such as Bulgari and Damiani.

Teatro alla Scala is the musical complement to Milan’s rich fashion heritage. Boasting centuries of performances from the history’s most beloved musicians, singers, composers, conductors and directors, and an equally as famous, and powerful audience. Considered the tastemakers of opera, the loggionisti, or audience members seated in the upper galleries, are famous for their love of the art form, knowledge, and expression. The loggionisti have been known to whistle when presented with what they would consider an inadequate singer, director, etc, and have been known to stop performances mid-way to literally boo a singer off the stage. In these rare cases, an understudy or an alternate singer must be prepared enough to go onstage and finish the opera at a moment’s notice.

Founded under the auspices of Empress Maria Teresa of Austria, was designed by the neoclassical architect, Giuseppe Piermarini to replace the original Royal Ducal Theatre, which burned down in 1776. At its inauguration in 1778, the theatre was known as the Nuovo Regio Ducale Teatro alla Scala, which simply meant, the New Royal-Ducal Theatre. The addition of the phrase alla Scala came from the fact that the theatre was built upon the site of a deconsecrated church called Santa Maria alla Scala.



The enormous stage and 3,000+ seats were out of tradition with other theatres in Europe. It is grander both visually and acoustically, which is no small feat considering the fact that to this day opera remains a non-amplified performance art.

In 1812, the composer Gioachino Rossini became Italy’s most important composer while La Scala became the country’s most respected theatre for opera seria. After the wave of works composed by Rossini, a new phase in the history of opera was born. This phase celebrated the new compositional style which is known as bel canto, and frequently featured the operas of Gaetano Donizetti and Vincenzo Bellini. Donizetti is a historically significant composer for both his compositional style, melismatic and challenging vocal lines. His compositional style majorly influenced the composer that would become not only La Scala’s, but Italy’s united musical treasure, Giuseppe Verdi.

Apart from its compositional heritage, La Scala has been the home of an important lineage of conductors as well. Arturo Toscanini, Tullio Serafin, Carlo Maria Giulini, Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Daniel Barenboim and Riccardo Chailly have all held post as musical director and principal conductor during the many golden ages of the theatre. During these periods audiences experienced the artistry of such singers as Maria Callas, Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Joan Sutherland, Mirella Freni, Renata Scotto, Enrico Caruso, Beniamino Gigli, Cecilia Bartoli, Giulietta Simionato, and Renato Bruson.

The opening of the theatrical season occurs each year on December 7th. It is a holiday in Milan that celebrates Sant’Ambrogio, the city’s patron saint. The long-weekend that follows is full of festivities and coincides with the famous Fiera Degli Oh Bei, Oh Bei, which is held on the grounds of Castello Sforzesco.

Visitors who are interested in seeing any production at Teatro alla Scala should plan far in advance of their trip to ensure ticket availability and production dates. All season information can be found at www.teatroallascala.org. Tickets are anywhere from 5 to 187 euros, and performances generally sell out well in advance.

There is a dress code to follow when attending performances, for the most part, attendees are asked to dress appropriately and respectfully for the theatre. All information regarding dress codes, premieres, season openings and show specifics can be found at http://www.teatroallascala.org/en/you-and-lascala/audience/preparing-visit.html.

Photo credit: "Milan - Scala - Facade" by Jean-Christophe Benoist