La Scala trades trees for maestro

Claudio Abbado returns to Milan opera house

Claudio Abbado, La Scala’s legendary musical director, is set to return to the Milan opera house he stormed out of 23 years ago.

While attempts by Milan’s ruling right wing politicos to lure him back were initially refused, the 75-year-old maestro agreed to return on one condition: “I’ll come back if you plant 90,000 trees.”

Abbado is famed for introducing contemporary opera to Milan, where he reigned from 1966 to 1986. Even now, in his eighth decade, the left-leaning intellectual is in tune with the zeitgeist.

The city was so keen to woo Abbado, who also held top jobs at the London Symphony Orchestra and the Vienna State Opera, that it whipped up plans for “intercity woodlands” and even a new tree-lined path between the city’s best-known landmarks, its cathedral and castle.

The great man was suitably impressed, and already cognoscenti are preparing to make a beeline for tickets for his first two Mahler concerts, scheduled for June 4 and 6 next year.

And for those who don’t get seats, there’ll still be a more verdant city to enjoy — and Abbado to thank.