Saturday, April 22, 2006

Teatro della Scala – The Scala Milan

Over the years I have had the opportunity to visit the Scala in Milan on numerous occasions. The Scala is truly a work of art both in architecture and acoustics. Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to visit following the recent renovation but Raffaella and I were fortunate enough to be present at the last concert before it closed for 3 years.

It is late, the meeting lasted too long however there was no way to get out without offending someone. When we were in Boston, we attended a presentation of Othello. I thought it would be less formal than Italy so I dressed in a dark, double-breasted suit. When our host picked us up and he was without a tie I immediately recognized that I was overdressed. It was a real eye opener, the presentation was pretty good, although it was a very unique interpretation. Over dressed was an understatement; some people were in shorts and a t-shirt. I think that dress is a form of respect, whether you go to a restaurant, a show, or just a visit to a friend’s home I believe that how you dress indicates your expectations of the environment you will be in and the experience you will have. Fortunately this is Milan, Raffaella found my cleaned and neatly pressed tux hanging in the closet, housekeeping brought it in while we were out.

From my double-breasted suit to my Canali tux is not a short process. I usually wear Canali or Armani because their cut is more “comfortable” thus inline with my physique, or should I say lack of it. It takes some time to get ready, Raffaella is always fabulous but decides to change also. We have to be careful about the time, if you are late to the opening at the Scala they will not allow you to enter the main seating area. It is extremely important to be a bit early.

We have been looking forward to this concert. Riccardo Muti has been on top of the world for some time but we had never heard his concerts live. This is also the last concert at the Scala for several years. The Scala is undergoing its first renovation since Maria Teresa of Austria had commissioned its construction in 1778. We have been to the Scala several times and visited the Museum on different occasions however we were concerned that following the renovation something might be different.

The cabbie quickly transports us to the entrance. Fortunately cabs have reserved streets and access to the busy city center of Milan. The first lights down is occurs as we enter the main seating area. Entering the scala is returning to the 17th century. Before taking my seat I take a long look around the theater. I am always overwhelmed with the beauty of the Scala, the workmanship of the molding, the heavy cloths silk and wool fabrics used for the drapes, the gold inlays contrasting the red silk wall coverings and the white painted molding, generate images of those working by hand carving the wooden structures.

The oval structure with 8 to 12 seat booths along the exterior surround the floor seating and finish adjacent to the stage. The first several floors are private seating while the upper floors are called the “Colombai”, or where the doves sit, better known in US arenas as the nosebleed section. A beautiful crystal chandelier hangs over the center of the floor seating sending streams of bright light throughout the room.

The second lights down breaks my concentration and I quickly sit. The orchestra is tuning their instruments. The resonance of the tuning process becomes more and more harmonious and slowly dies into silence. Mr. Muti steps onto the stage to an uproar of applause. Muti has been a fixed presence at the Scala for many years now and deeply loved by Milan. Silence falls as the director turns toward the orchestra. A crescendo of soft tones emanates from the strings. Soft but penetrating, the acoustics of the Scala are impressive.

The orchestra continues, images of Othello appear as Muti guides the musicians through a moving rendition of the opera. The music inspires passion, conflict, mistrust, treachery, fear and triumph. Placido Domingo, performing his 211th rendition of Othello, does not waiver but it is apparent that he no longer has the range of his younger years.

Adrenalin speeds through my veins. The music surrounds and encompasses. The orchestra plays, their movements seem almost eclectic, each artist overcomes personal confines to create a masterpiece. Tears well up in my eyes, followed by goose bumps running the length of my back. As the theater becomes silent and the lights appear as lightning in a dark night the audience erupts in a roar of applause strangely resembling the thunder after a lightning strike. Petals of white roses float onto the stage from the box seats as the audience continues in a fifteen minute applause. This is an appropriate salute to the grand dama the Scala, to her present conductor and to the great tenor Placido Domingo.

I admit I love music, so I am surely biased. The Scala is the perfect enclosure to stage a strong orchestra performing classical music. The architecture is linear, the workmanship clearly of master artisans, the design an acoustical wonder. A visit to the Scala at any time is a marvelous experience but viewing an opera or a classical concert can be a life-changing event. Except in the month of August the Scala will host numerous operas and concerts through the end of the year.


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Blogger Tracie P. said...

i would love to go see an opera--just haven't yet. i can just imagine why you would get chills!

as for the dress, i agree. i love austin, it was my city for almost 10 years, but in any given restaurant, no matter how nice, someone in shorts and a t-shirt could always be found. many people loved this about austin, but it bothered me. i cannot imagine going to the opera in jeans! where are the boundaries?

11:37 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

tracie b. - In Naples you have the San Carlo, my offices were just across the plaza, and it is truly beautiful.

Regarding dress: I think that we, in the US, have come to think that money means defines our value therefore all of the aspects that traditionally meant "I appreciate you, I respect your thoughts and you as a person" no longer have any meaning.

Think about a mother buying, instead of making, a birthday cake from Target for her child's birthday. What does this say about how important our child is?

12:08 PM

Blogger a.c.t. said...

La scala is an amazing building and for me represents the centre of Milan as it is near Via Montenapoleone and Il Duomo.

2:19 AM


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