Sunday, 3 July 2016

My Visit to La Scala

The auditorium of La Scala, setting the stage for Swan Lake 28 June 2016
(c) 2016 Gita Mistry: all rights reserved

La Scala Theatre is one of the great opera houses of the world and its ballet company one of the world's finest (see Marinella Guatterini Ballet History). Carlotta Grisi trained at its ballet school as stars of our own times such as Carla Fracci, Alessandra Ferri and Roberto Bolle. I was very impressed by the young dancers in the Dutch National Ballet who had trained there such as Cristiano Principato and Emilie Tassinari. On Tuesday at the Gala for Alessia I saw for the first time, and made the acquaintance of, other young dancers who had trained at La Scala Ballet School who were dancing in Milan and Vienna and they impressed me too (see From Italy with Love 1 July 2016).

My time in Italy was very short so I did not have time to see any performances but I did manage to visit the Theatre Museum at La Scala. I had been there once before in 1974 before the theatre had been renovated. I was impressed then and was even more so now. Before my visit I had planned to explore the cathedral, Brera and the Theatre Museum but there was so much to see that there was barely time for anything else. All we could manage after our tour was the briefest of visits to the magnificent Duomo. Most of the exhibits in the Museum relate to the opera, the composers of the scores for the great operas and the singers who performed at La Scala but there are some real ballet treasures such as a fine portrait of Rudolf Nureyev.

However, the greatest treat was to enter the auditorium and watch the preparation of the stage for Thursday's performance of Swan Lake. This is Ratmansky's staging and is a co-production with Zurich Opera House. The stage is massive and so is the orchestra pit which must make it very difficult for the audience to see the dancers' faces even from the front row of the stalls. A box on the second and third levels might be better but one would be no closer than the front row of the amphitheatre in Covent Garden. For the folk in the gods the stage must seem as remote as the sea off St Anns at low tide.

The Author 29 June 2016
(c) 2015 Gita Mistry:
all rights reserved
That is of course beside the point. One comes to La Scala for history, tradition, excellence and the sense of occasion where all those things are to be found in abundance. You can see my sense of elation from my arabesque in the photo.

Milan is the second city of Italy as Manchester is the second city of the United Kingdom but the contrast between the two was palpable. The Victor Emanuel arcade with its Prada, Gucci and other premium retailers knocked Sr Ann's Square and Police Street into a cocked hat. Instead of a clanking tram there is a fast and frequent underground to most parts of the city. Fast, clean electric trains sped us from and to Trecate some 26 miles away in contrast to the noisy diesel that laboured back to Huddersfield from Manchester airport. Italy has had a glorious history ever since classical times, its art and architecture are everywhere and it is the first port of call for refugees and migrants from Africa yet I saw and heard none of the ugly calls "To Take Control" or "Get our Country Back" which erupted during and continue to fester as a result of out mean spirited and inglorious referendum campaign. In short, the journey back from Italy to post Brexit Britain was not just an 800 mile flight but a lurch back 50 years in time.

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