La Scala May Slow Down in Summer, but the Show Goes On

MILAN — It was, and never so way back, that August’s torridness bested Italians’ makes an attempt at retaining cool within the heat-retaining concrete and stone of their cities. Factories and retailers would shut their doorways, and mass migrations to the seashore, or towards limpid mountain air, left cities with a faintly post-apocalyptic feeling.

Those unfortunate sufficient to be left behind foraged for meals, pharmacies or the air-conditioned aid of the uncommon movie show that had not closed for the summer season.

Italy’s premier opera theater, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, used to take an extra-long bow, reducing its curtain in July solely to boost it with the pomp and circumstance of its celebrated and celebrity-filled Dec. 7 premiere (there was all the time a fall live performance season, however it isn’t the identical factor).

The frenetic tempo of contemporary life has not spared Italy. Or La Scala, the place the opera season has been significantly lengthened, notably after a three-year high-tech improve 15 years in the past.

“Things have modified from a number of years in the past, when there was an actual pause, awaiting Dec. 7,” Stefania Cavallin, one of many theater’s three chief stage designers, mentioned in an interview on the theater this month. “But then we started with a small fall season that grew to become more and more necessary. Now it’s a steady cycle.”

Her manufacturing crew — in addition to different workers of La Scala — nonetheless will get a three-week break in August, she mentioned. “But we already put together the work that can go onstage when the theater reopens” in September, she added.

Nowadays, La Scala’s playbill has grown from the eight or 9 operas staged in a typical season 20 years in the past to round 15, of which 9 or 10 are new or co-productions. Of the six ballets, about half are new, mentioned Franco Malgrande, La Scala’s stage engineer. “It’s a really tight manufacturing,” and that interprets into “a significantly larger supply for the general public.”

Mr. Malgrande added that even when the season ended, across the third week of July, “it doesn’t imply our exercise stops.” The uncommon interval when the stage is freed from units, he added, “is when all the upkeep takes place, of the equipment and of the stage mechanics,” a round the clock endeavor due to the shorter summer season break. Preparations then start for the autumn operas, normally the theater’s personal productions (in September and October, Verdi’s “Rigoletto” and Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore.”)

La Scala didn’t develop into Italy’s most famed theater in a single day. It labored for it.

In the 1950s, Mr. Malgrande mentioned, it constructed its personal exterior workshops for costume and set design and development (beforehand, as a result of they have been largely painted backdrops, opera units have been created in a big corridor above the primary auditorium). Now, the workshops occupy a 20,000-square-meter facility (about 215,000 sq. ft), the previous Ansaldo metal crops in what was as soon as an industrial space of Milan, and make use of about 150 artisans.

“They work frenetically; it’s a manufacturing unit,” Mr. Malgrande mentioned cheerfully. From units to designs to stage objects, “we will reproduce something, any object on the planet, outdated, new, historic,” he mentioned. And the in-house abilities be sure that high-quality productions are handed on to new generations, who prepare contained in the theater. “There’s a wealth of expertise in La Scala,” he mentioned.

Though Italy has 14 opera foundations, “no different theater has such structured workshops,” Ms. Cavallin echoed.

Over on the Ansaldo facility on a muggy afternoon this month, set builders have been placing the ending touches on a ship for “Le Corsaire” and crafting a plausible Persian rug from stencils and paint for an upcoming manufacturing of “Julius Caesar,” whereas in one other space, gigantic musical devices for Salieri’s “Prima la musica e poi le parole,” a part of a double invoice with Woody Allen’s staging of Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi,” have been works in progress.

The workshops can be lively till the tip of July earlier than a brief August hiatus.

“August continues to be an issue in Italy as a result of lots of our suppliers shut down, so it makes little sense for us to stay open,” Ms. Cavallin mentioned.

Set design takes place in workshops previously utilized by the Ansaldo metal crops. “They work frenetically; it’s a manufacturing unit,” La Scala’s stage supervisor mentioned of the workshops for costume and set design and development.CreditFondazione Teatro alla Scala

A gaggle of tourists gathered on the walkway above the primary workshop. Guided excursions are given twice per week.

In the costume division, Rita Citterio, who oversees the theater’s costume storage, gave a short tour of her personal: a showcase of historic costumes from previous productions of operas on this 12 months’s playbill, together with a 1954-55 “L’elisir d’amore” by Franco Zeffirelli and Gabriella Pescucci’s costumes for the 1997-98 “Manon Lescaut.” Next season, Dolce and Gabbana will debut as costume designers at La Scala for Verdi’s “Ballo in Maschera.”

In its warehouse, La Scala has about 60,000 costumes relationship from 1911. Each 12 months, three,000 to four,000 extra are added. “Space is an enormous drawback,” Ms. Citterio mentioned, laughing. “When we first got here right here, I by no means imagined we’d run out of room, however because the seasons have gotten longer it’s modified loads.”

La Scala’s seamstresses break up their ability units. Some work on and behind the stage, whereas others create the costumes, which have their very own challenges.

“We usually say that one opera is best than 100 ballets, that are very difficult from the viewpoint of the costume, as a result of clearly the ballet dancer makes use of the costume, it could actually’t get in the best way of motion,” mentioned Cinzia Rosselli, head of dressmaking. “For an opera singer, a very powerful factor is the throat and the chest space; for a dancer it’s all necessary, from the tip of their large toe to the highest of their head.”

The ballet firm has essentially the most demanding summer season schedule, utilizing the times off to tour. This August it can journey to Beijing, with La Scala’s personal productions of “Giselle” and “Le Corsaire.”

“They are two reverse productions; one presents the corporate in its virtuosity and brilliance, and ‘Giselle’ is romantic, a part of custom,” mentioned the ballet director, Frédéric Olivieri.

As we spoke, stagehands have been packing up crates with units, costumes, lighting, make-up and different wants for the 2 productions, which might head to Beijing by ship, then by prepare.

A ballet grasp would additionally head there forward of the corporate to rehearse with native kids — college students at a Chinese dance academy — for one of many scenes in “Le Corsaire.” “Touring is attention-grabbing as a result of there may be all the time a cultural alternate,” Mr. Olivieri mentioned.

Back in Milan, the 2019-20 ballet season can be inaugurated with a coproduction with the Vienna State Ballet of “Sylvia,” choreographed by its director, Manuel Legris. Mr. Olivieri was enthusiastic: “It’s very uncommon so as to add a brand new classical ballet to the repertoire.”

In the warmth of August, because the stagehands work backstage, one other crew can be working within the auditorium, the place the large chandelier can be lowered from the ceiling, as it’s yearly, to be cleaned. This summer season, work will start to enhance the acoustics of La Scala’s containers, eradicating the padding that’s presently on the partitions to use tapestry on to the drywall. The first order can be tackled this 12 months, the primary of a three-year venture.

And then, at the same time as operas and ballets rotate on the calendar, La Scala will put together for its Dec. 7 premiere.

“It stays a gap in grand fashion; for anybody who works at La Scala it stays the important thing date, it’s untouchable,” mentioned Ms. Cavallin, the stage designer.

“It is a really heartfelt event,” Mr. Malgrande chimed in.

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