Milan’s venerable La Scala opera house on Monday will stage a globally distributed TV gala event featuring its mask-wearing orchestra in the empty venue and a multimedia medley of arias and other performances by opera, ballet, pop music and screen stars, substituting its canceled season opener.
Due to the pandemic, La Scala has been forced to call off its traditional December opera opening, among the top events on Europe’s cultural calendar, for the first time since the Second World War. Until recently, the planned opener was Gaetano Doninzetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” with U.S. soprano Lisette Oropesa set to perform the title role.
Oropesa (pictured) would have been the first American to perform the La Scala opening since Maria Callas in the 1950s.
Instead she will be part of a lineup comprising 24 star talents, also including Placido Domingo, tenor Juan Diego Florez, dancer Roberto Bolle, Sting and Italian actor Caterina Murino, the Bond girl in “Casino Royale.”
The partly pre-recorded event features mostly opera arias by Giuseppe Verdi, Gioachino Rossini and Richard Wagner, among other composers, but also film clips paying homage to classic movies by Federico Fellini and Charlie Chaplin.
La Scala musical director Riccardo Chailly will conduct the theater’s orchestra, chorus and ballet corps. The event will be staged and directed by Davide Livermore, who has directed other La Scala openers. Costumes have been designed by Milan fashion designers whose names have not yet been disclosed.
The concert will reportedly be opened by a drone shot of a muse flying over Milan, the main city in Italy’s northern Lombardy region, which was hardest hit by coronavirus with more than 20,000 deaths since the pandemic begun, which represents 40% of the country’s total death toll.
The gala will air in Italy on pubcaster RAI and across Europe on French-German channel ARTE. It will stream globally on classical music and opera platform Medici TV.
La Scala had re-opened in July after being shut for four months during Italy’s first wave of COVID-19. But in October, Italy shut theaters and concert halls again to contain the second wave of infections.