In my year-end essay for Standpoint magazine, I reflect on the opera houses in my life – all of them, except La Scala which used to make itself virtually inaccessible unless you knew someone on the inside, preferably backstage.
It has taken me more than half a century of dedicated opera-going to get to the source of it all, and before I start making excuses let me say it was La Scala’s fault. That house made itself harder to get into than Hatton Garden’s jewellery vaults.
Back in the pre-email era, if you ever managed to get someone to answer the switchboard in Milan the response was invariably a blast of machine-gun Italian comprehensible only to a highly-trained Donizetti comprimario. And, if you were lucky enough to get put through to the press office, you met levels of self-importance and xenophobia rivalled only at Bayreuth. It took me a while to appreciate the anguish of press people who, passionate about art, worked as mediators between the irreconcilable forces of artistic vanity and democratic transparency. But I digress.
Read on here….