La Scala’s Director Thinks, and Works, Globally

Alexander Pereira has gone by way of his share of trials as inventive director of La Scala. He was practically blocked from beginning his job in 2014 when the Italian authorities questioned the legality of buying 4 productions from the Salzburg Festival. More not too long ago, in March, he infected the theater’s advisory board and native politicians by courting the Saudi tradition minister as a sponsor.

The minister, Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, had pledged a complete of 15 million euros, about $17 million, with the promise of changing into a board member. La Scala’s administration rejected the deal and is to resolve late this month whether or not to resume Mr. Pereira’s contract, which expires within the spring of 2020.

The home will proceed with plans to collaborate with the federal government of Saudi Arabia on changing an all-girls’ college in Riyadh, the capital, right into a coed music conservatory that may embody ballet, instrumental educating and a choir. The amenities, for 600 kids, are scheduled to open in November.

At dwelling in Milan, Mr. Pereira has elevated non-public sponsorship for La Scala by €eight million since 2014 — relieving the home of a €6 million deficit when he arrived. The firm receives a 3rd of its roughly €123 million finances from public funding (in contrast with greater than half on the state operas of Vienna and Munich).

Mr. Pereira, a 71-year-old Austrian, is called a savvy fund-raiser. As director of the Zurich Opera House from 1991 to 2012 and through a brief tenure on the Salzburg Festival from 2011 to 2014, he positioned an emphasis on new productions.

In Milan, he has elevated opera performances and has concentrated development within the autumn months: In 2012, the home used to run three productions from September to November; now there are 5. With its doorways open to the general public on extra evenings now, the home has seen an increase within the variety of guests — from 360,000 in 2012 to about 420,000 — but additionally a slight drop within the attendance price, to 88 p.c.

Together together with his music director, Riccardo Chailly, Mr. Pereira has each cultivated the home’s illustrious Italian custom and pushed programming in new instructions.

He scored a victory at this yr’s International Opera Awards in London when Gyorgy Kurtag’s “Fin de Partie” (Endgame) — initially commissioned for the Salzburg Festival and premiered in Milan in November — was named world premiere of the yr.

The upcoming season options 11 new opera productions, together with a double invoice of the 20th-century composer Luigi Nono’s azione scenica in two components, “Intolleranza 1960”— which will likely be carried out at La Scala for the primary time — and Schönberg’s monodrama “Erwartung” (Expectation). Continuing a Puccini cycle that attracts upon the latest scholarship, Mr. Chailly opens the season in December with “Tosca” in a staging by Davide Livermore. The conductor additionally presides over his first Strauss opera on the theater with “Salome.”

Mr. Pereira spoke by telephone simply after Korngold’s “Die Tote Stadt” (The Dead City) obtained its first efficiency in historical past at La Scala. “It was one of many largest triumphs that we’ve had,” he mentioned. “So I’m comparatively motivated.”

The following dialog has been translated from German, edited and condensed.

How have you ever struck a steadiness between the theater’s native custom and introducing new repertoire?

If you’re heading Milan’s well-known La Scala, then you could have a duty to contemplate what’s a part of its custom. The theater was opened in 1778 — at a time when there was no opera home in Vienna or Berlin. But the hazard is to derive every little thing from this custom.

We attempt to stretch La Scala as extensive as potential as a result of one tends to situate Italian repertoire solely between Verdi and Puccini. To current worthy operas that had been written earlier than and after is necessary.

It have to be a troublesome time for opera for Italy, given shrinking public funds.

That is the large problem of operating this home. I’ve to spend my time amassing cash.

If I solely look in Italy, I attain a restrict. And the query arises: Who else would possibly need to finance an establishment of worldwide significance?

Politically, one might wonder if the European Union can be fascinated by La Scala. But that’s a lot too long run. If I need to remedy an issue within the brief or midterm, then I’ve to search out non-public cash.

Who is investing in Europe for the time being? The Saudis, the Chinese, the Russians.

You weren’t involved concerning the cultural variations if a Saudi native had joined the board?

In the large European banks, if there’s one [foreign] board member, the board doesn’t break into shambles. If seven of 10 members had been, then it might most likely play a job.

But the necessary factor is that, in a rustic that has been with out music schooling for 50 years, a conservatory is being based. And the individuals who need to make this conservatory potential are certainly not the worst on this planet.

Must Europe put together itself for a future through which cultural establishments are extra depending on non-public sponsorship?

I don’t assume that public funds will enhance. The cash has to return from someplace. That’s why one has to construct a robust private-public partnership.

And impress the viewers to purchase as many tickets as potential. La Scala funds itself by way of virtually 70 p.c of its personal earnings.

One has to consider within the energy of renewal. Theaters placed on fewer productions as a result of they assume they’ve to economize. One closes down ballet ensembles. Total nonsense! On each night ballet will not be carried out, I’ve an empty theater.

Are there any bitter emotions that subsequent season could possibly be your final at La Scala?

We’ll see what occurs. I’ve deliberate [the program] till 2022, which is in my contract.

I’m an individual who at all times appears ahead and never again. Of course there have been disappointments. But all in all, I’m very grateful for this time in Milan as a result of I’ve the sensation that I might do lots for the home, not simply nationally however internationally.

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