'La Scala' is considered to be one of the leading opera and ballet theatres in the world and is home to the 'La Scala Theatre Chorus', 'La Scala Theatre Ballet' and 'La Scala Theatre Orchestra'. In addition, it is home to 'The La Scala Theatre Museum', which contains a collection of paintings, statues, costumes, and other documents relating to the history of 'La Scala' and opera history in general; the 'La Scala Theatre Academy', which offers professional training in music, dance, stage craft and stage management, and the 'Academy for the Performing Arts'.
La Scala - 18th century
La Scala was built on the site of the original 'Royal Ducal Theatre' which had burnt down in 1776. At the time, Lombardy was part of the Austrian Empire and a group of wealthy theatre-goers appealed to the Archduke to build them a new theatre. After the first design was rejected, the Empress Maria Teresa approved a proposal to build the theatre on the site of an old church, Santa Maria alla Scala, after which the theatre was named. The cost of the building was covered by the sale of private boxes. The new theatre had seating for approximately 3,000 arranged in tiers and what is still one of the largest stages in Italy. The stage was originally lit by 84 oil lamps with another one thousand lighting the rest of the theatre. Several nearby rooms were filled with hundreds of water buckets in case of fire. Over the years, the oil lamps were replaced, first by gas lamps and then by electric lights in the late 19th century.
The original theatre was renovated in 1907 and the seating reduced to 1,987. In 1943, the theatre was severly damaged by bombing and again rebuilt, opening in 1946. Arturo Toscanini, an associate of bothe Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini, conducted the inaugural concert which featured a sensational soprano solo delivered by Renata Tebaldi.
In 2002, the renowned architect, Mario Botta, undertook controversial renovations, removing many of the theatre's historic, iconic designs. However, the changes eventually earned the approval of the opera company which recognised many improvements to the sound quality, stage construction and the enlarged backstage area. The new layout also featured monitors displaying an electronic libretto system provided by Radio Marconi, an Italian company, which allows audiences to follow opera libretti in English and Italian as well as the original language.
The re-designed 'La Scala' opened on December 7th, 2004, with a production, conducted by Riccardo Muti, of Salieri's Europa riconosciuta, the opera that was performed at the theatre's inauguration in 1778. This time, tickets fetched up to €2,000!