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La Scala

Teatro alla Scala (or briefly La Scala), Milan, Italy, perhaps the most important theatre for opera.

Its history comes from the fire that destroyed the ancient Teatro Ducale, close to the Duomo, on February 25, 1776, after a carnival gala. In this theatre palchi (boxes) were a private property of some spectators, 90 of which wrote to Archduke Ferdinand I of Austria asking for a new theatre and a provisional one to be used while completing the main one.

The neoclassical architect Giuseppe Piermarini[?] produced a first design that was refused by Count Firmian (an Austrian governor) and a second plan that was accepted in 1776 by Empress Maria Theresa.

The new theatre was be built in the area of the church of Santa Maria alla Scala, from where the theatre gets its name. The church was deconsecrated and demolished, and in the following 2 years the theatre was completed by Pietro Marliani, Pietro Nosetti and Antonio and Giuseppe Fe'.

The theatre was inaugurated on August 3 1778, with the name of Nuovo Regio Ducal Teatro alla Scala, with Antonio Salieri's L'Europa riconosciuta.

Building expenses were soon covered by the sale of palchi; becoming a true private property, palchi were furnished by owners as personally as private houses, with an astonishing effect (among describers such as Stendhal, too).

La Scala (as it was soon simply called) immediately became the most elegant place in the town, the eminent meeting point for noble and wealthy Milanese people. As in the tradition of those times, the platea had no chairs and spectators could watch shows standing up; also the golfo mistico (the space for orchestra) was not yet built.

Its original structure was revised in 1907, when it was given its current arrangement. Since its origins, La Scala had a gallery over the boxes, to allow poor people to enjoy opera: it is the Loggione[?], the croce e delizia of every singer. Loggione is typically crowded with the most competent spectators, severe and sometimes wicked in underlining players' possible faults, as well as enthusiastic celebrators of fine performances. La Scala's Loggione is effectively the real exam for any artist in opera, a test that will not take the least account of previous successes or fiascos (the famous Bergonzi, back on scene after many years, wasn't forgiven a bad beginning of his Aida and suffered merciless fischi - whistles, which in Italy mean contempt).

As most of the theatres at that time, La Scala was also a casino, with gamblers sitting in foyer. To prevent the risks of fire (it was illuminated with 84 oil lamps on palcoscenico and other 996 in the rest of theatre), several rooms were dedicated to hundreds of water pails. Oil lamps were replaced by gas lamps and in 1883 by electric light.

In 1943, during WWII, La Scala was severely damaged by bombing, and reopened on 11 May 1946, with a memorable concert directed by Arturo Toscanini.

La Scala hosted the prima (first production) of many famous operas, and had a special relationship with Giuseppe Verdi. For several years, however, Verdi did not allow his work to be played here, as some of his music had been modified (he said "corrupted" by the orchestra).

It now hosts a museum (accessible from the foyer) with an extraordinary collection of paintings, drafts, statues, costumes, and other documents regarding opera.

La Scala's season traditionally opens on December 7th[?], Saint Ambrose's Day, Milan's patron saint.
The shows must end before midnight; if the opera (or another show) has a length that would cause it to end after midnight, it is begun early.
Absolutely no entrance is allowed when the show has begun (with no exceptions, as Richard Burton discovered). The theatre is currently closed for restoration.

Official website: http://www.teatroallascala.org

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