Holiday reading: How to get into La Scala (a user’s guide)

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….

teatro_la_scala

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  • Mr. Lebrecht: thank you for this. I had so much fun with it I read it aloud at the table at Christmas lunch. We all have our house stories/descriptions, but these are classics – and, where I know the house, can relate precisely. (If I find time I may share a couple of stories, and also may have a question or two for you and your readers)

  • Opera house question: Back in 1978 one of my Viennese flatmates knew a side way into the Staatsoper and we were able to walk right up to the score-reading places without paying. Heard Birgit Nilsson in Elektra that way (could only see action far downstage). Any other SlippedDisc readers ever sneak into an opera house? We also sneaked up to stehplatz with the 2nd interval smokers to catch the last act of Walküre, but that didn’t require skill beyond lucky timing coming home from dinner.

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