Historic Highlights: Teatro Alla Scala

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Historic Highlights: Teatro Alla Scala

Built by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, La Scala was built, to replace a previous building that had burnt down, in the late 1700s. Since then, the opera house has survived 350 years of closures, renovations, and two world wars. Now, La Scala embraces its history and changes with opera, ballet, symphony orchestra concerts, and more.

Design of the Building

The building itself was designed by the architect Giuseppe Piermarini. He was a neoclassical architect made famous by designing La Scala. The idea of space and maximum use was his primary goal when building and he still made La Scala look beautiful on the outside as well. With many considering the building’s environment, modest housing built around La Scala was demolished in 1851 to preserve the aesthetics.

Since its original construction, different architects have restored La Scala a few times. Especially after surviving a bombing during World War II, the building needed restoration. After its restoration and rebuilding, La Scala had one of the most memorable concerts conducted by Toscanini and composed by Verdi and Puccini. This concert brought life back into the previously destroyed performance theater. 

Inside the theater, lavish drapery is used as curtains, a large crystal chandelier looms over the crowd, and walls drip in intricate molding. Even the second curtain dividing the stage and auditorium is art itself. Original curtains were sketched by Monticelli and replaced by Riccardi. Now, creations are inspired by the original design.  The Chandelier weighs over a ton and was originally lit by candles before being replaced by electricity. It still is one of the most recognizable features of the theater.

Performances at the Theater

There are hundreds of successful past performances, but La Scala would not be as renowned as it is without a few famous performances and performers. Starting with L’Europa Riconosciuta by Antonio Salieri. After opening the opera house in 1778, L’Europa Riconosciuta was and still is an eye-catching, political opera with an on-stage murder. A quick favorite among the opera community.

Others include the debuts of future famous musicians, composers, dancers, and directors. These include Paganini, Verdi, and Fracci. In 1813, Paganini debuted in La Scala. The violinist’s success was directly attributed to the theater’s influence in the industry. Verdi’s return to the venue was long awaited and anticipated. The theater hosted Otello, Verdi’s finest Shakespearean operas. They also hosted his final work, Falstaff. Lastly, Carla Fracci is among history’s most esteemed prima ballerinas. She graduated from the theater’s ballet school in 1954 and was announced to be a soloist at the theater, giving the theater some of her most renowned recitals. She later found her footing in America for ballet.

Modern La Scala

Today, La Scala has its original 3000 seats between the floor and the loggione (gallery). Often, tickets can be difficult to acquire, especially for well-known operas. People are urged to buy tickets in advance when wanting to see an established opera. Fortunately, attending rehearsals is common and free. When patrons attend a performance, they are asked to stick to a dress code that is respectful to the history and design of the building.

When designing modern opera houses, symphony halls, and theaters, we look at La Scala as the premiere venue in architecture and acoustics. The famous opera house influences more than just performers and performances, but also architects. Pre-thought for functionality while incorporating tasteful design can be difficult to execute. Attributes like the horseshoe-shaped auditorium and the neoclassical architecture are reminiscent of La Scala. The Royal Opera House in London, Teatro Municipal in Sao Paulo, and The Metropolitan Opera House in New York are just a few buildings that used Teatro Alla Scala as design inspiration.  

If you’re interest in this historic highlight, visit their official website here!

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