La Scala to tourists: Get dressed

La Scala to tourists: Get dressed


norman lebrecht

July 16, 2017

Summer visitors turning up at the home base of Italian opera are being asked politely to respect the dress code.

If they show up in shorts and flip-flops, ushers direct them to a nearby H&M to buy shoes and trousers before they are allowed to enter the auditorium.

Quite right, too.

More here.


  • Alexander says:

    get dressed sounds ambiguously 😉 … speaking seriously last time it happened to me in Singapore years ago when I was told to get dressed properly , I was going to attend that famous restaurant on 70th floor of the Stamford hotel, they asked me to buy socks – so Scala is not the primmest place in the row 😉

  • Peggy Sweeney says:

    The idea of a “nearby H&M” is, for me, the most depressing part of this piece.

  • DLowe says:

    The final paragraph is worth a read…

  • Tubalcain says:

    Try wearing full evening wear at La Scala at 35C! Unless you are in the Guards you would not be able to withstand the heat.

    I had my tailor Dunmore & Locke make me linen-silk-wool, evening tails, with white Marcella shirt, mother of pearl studs, waistcoat, 3 buttons, white poplin bow tie, self tied of course, noticed most attending were in t-shirts etc, some had popcorn! Ugh.

  • Brian Hughes says:

    The content of the articles reeks of the elitism that identifies with classical music (particularly opera). Draconian and old-school dress codes will keep people away from places like La Scala. Formal wear on a 95-degree summer day? You’ve got to be kidding.

    “The breaches of conduct do not stop at flip-flops and ripped jeans. Aficionados were appalled this month to see a group of casually-dressed American students, who attended a performance of La Boheme, start munching burgers and French fries from McDonald’s during the interval. It was “as if they were at a village food festival”, one outraged veteran said on a Facebook site dedicated to opera.”

    Isn’t this the audience that the classical music community is trying to reach? We should be overjoyed that a group of American students came to Milan and chose to attend a performance of Boheme, instead of berating them for their attire and casual activities during intermission. They are the future of the art-form.

    • Nik says:

      The definition of ‘formal wear’ has already been relaxed significantly compared to 25 years ago. Nobody is talking about ties and jackets here. Putting on a pair of light trousers, a shirt and shoes is not an unreasonable burden even when it is hot.

      • Holly Golightly says:

        It is for some people, apparently. And some people think classical music has come to a stage where it needs to seek out McDonalds consumers in flip flops, talking on their phones and chewing fries. No, it HASN’T COME TO THAT and it never will. Begone ye peasants!! Nobody needs to be actively pursuing audiences who don’t know how to behave. I suspect they’d be unwelcome in a good many restaurants too. OK, that means we don’t have to compete with them for seats. Win/win.

    • Carlos Montané says:

      For that reason, those American students have to be taught the correct way and teaching to RESPECT the ARTS and the ARTISTS. If Teatro alla Scala, as well as the Metropolitan Opera, the Staatsoper Wien, or the Deutsche Oper or Covent Garden will do the same, maybe future opera lovers will have more sense in dressing correct when attending a concert or opera performances.

  • Nelson & Bronte says:

    It is mostly tourists – US mainly wandering in untogged. But some of the locals have started dressing down too! I have spotted “cropped tops” on several occasions, they must think it’s Love Island.

  • Maria says:

    This is from the Daily Telegraph and I’m not sure I trust it. Get the Brits all stirred up about opera snobs in true tabloid fashion?

    Trawl for controversial quotes from a tiny minority or the odd eccentric? An exaggeration here and there?

    “Aficionados were appalled this month to see ……”

    How many “aficionados”? Two, five, ten?

    Not convinced.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      It was first in La Repubblica.

      • Nik says:

        The Telegraph article is a pretty accurate translation of the one in La Repubblica. But they added a particular British flair by choosing to illustrate the story with a photograph of “choir members performing during a rehearsal of Verdi’s opera Rigoletto in Barcelona”.
        Presumably the instruction to the picture desk was to find “something that shows opera”.

  • V.Lind says:

    I personally enjoy dressing up for the opera and similar events; it is part of the occasion for me. But I have slipped into things straight from work in dead of winter when I am dressed in jeans and a couple of warm sweatshirts — determining that my wish to hear the particular concert is more important than the fact I don’t have time to go home to change.

    I’m not intrinsically opposed to dress codes, but a sense of perspective is important too. How audience members are dressed does not intrinsically affect the performers, and only offends fellow audience members who care to take offence.Yes, I regret that young people seem to have to be bribed into trying something traditional, from opera to golf, with concessions to the kind of ambience THEY are used to rather than their being prepared to adopt the ancillary aspects of the activity. But some will adapt if they are enticed to try something int he first place– they may want to fit in, or they may grasp that dressing up is part of the experience. One can only hope. But banning is stupid and self-defeating.Not every young person can afford to cross a street and purchase clothes they don’t want, adding to the cost of an event. I know that to some around here not being able to afford is not a situation that garners much sympathy. But that attitude,too, is self-defeating.

    Not all opera in the park is Glyndebourne, and I imagine many of us have been to opera events in local parks where probably free and certainly cheap events attract large and diverse crowds dressed as they please In my experience it has never diluted the enjoyment or the quality of the performance.

    • Paul Davis says:

      Very true, excellent commonsense comment. I would add that behaviour of audience members is much more crucial than their appearance. At a couple of summer festivals i’ve had to attend events in shorts & sandals, (otherwise missing my sea swim!), and found that the best, or over-dressed, were not neccesarily the most knowledgeable. Obviously, if one is at the limit of underdressed, discreet & dignified behaviour is even more desirable.

  • Bill Morrison says:

    Why not a more relaxed code in the summer?

  • Marg says:

    Tourists – skip La Scala and visit Sydney. You are welcome.

  • Don Fatale says:

    I’m curious to know how much these tourists are paying for seats at La Scala Stalls (orchestra) seat are €200 upwards. They pay that then turn up in shorts and flip-flops?

    I can usually only afford the gallerias and these are invariably sold out to non-wealthy hard-core opera fans (local and beyond).

    It’s not ideal to see someone in a football shirt at the opera, but if he can manage to keep his phone in his pocket for the duration, that would be something.

  • Dave T says:

    Tourist generally do not travel with a wide range of clothes, appropriate for every occasion, given airline luggage restrictions and general practicality or travel. It is possible that these tourists attend an opera or concert on a whim and did not foresee or foreplan such an activity, hence they are not sartorially prepared. Sure dress codes should be respected but one must not jump to the conclusion that they are all uncouth bumpkins, at least not back home.

  • Leon says:

    I was working in Vienna when a visiting friend and I spent a day in the woods. On the tram back we were fascinated as her change of footwear and top dressed her for the opera. It can be done. It’s lack of
    personal hygiene, especially in warm weather, that’s more offensive than a t shirt, and I expect with the Italian penchant for style they’d make anything look appealing. Not so the Yanks or Aussies. It’s great to see everyone dressed up, but lack of wardrobe shouldn’t be an impediment. A shower or squirt of cologne should be mandatory.

  • Scott says:

    As a professional player, I’m pretty sure that my playing has never been influenced by the audience’s dress sense. The smell of a Big Mac wafting over the pit might be a bit annoying, but shorts being worn in row Z of the upper balcony… I would suugest that people who feel the need to find a problem with something – often for reasons of their own ego – probably need to have a long, hard look at themselves…

  • Jung says:

    I went to the beach in my tuxedo.
    My surgeon removed my appendix while wearing a helmet that played hard rock (nothing else but flip-flops)
    The airline attendant wore a two-piece bathing suit.
    My kids always wear boots when they swim in the pool.
    The singers were in shorts and tee shirts to perform the Verdi Requiem.
    The point is, if you participate in one of these events you need to dress for the event. The event should not be made to suffer your dress… as if you we at home on your sofa. Or, just stay home on your sofa. Much less work; why go to the opera anyway?

    • Scott says:

      Wearing boots in the pool would make swimming difficult, your surgeon quite possibly was listening to hard rock and not wearing anything beneath his health and safety-required gown, most airlines have a set uniform for staff (bit not for passengers), if the director of a semi-staged Verdi Req required shorts a t-shirts of the singers then that is what would happen, and most musicians have, at some point on a youth orchestra tour, ended up on a beach in a dinner jacket.
      Presumably La Scala’s orchestra and singers were in a proscribed dress, so why require it of the audience? I could listen to Boheme more attentively in my jeans and t-shirt than in my DJ, and for me, that’s what counts. The quality of the listening experience and the respect that I show the artists through my concentration, enjoyment and applause.

    • Paul Davis says:

      To listen to music, to experience live singing and acting…..not to be seen myself! I never wear a tie and rarely a jacket, very uncomfortable and would take my mind off the music. I always prefer it, more and more common these days, when performers, instrumentalists, conductors or singers, wear smart comfortable clothing, open-neck or chinese collar shirts, jacketless…. Personally i find ties and suits hideously ugly, not that i’d try to impose my taste on others. I also loathe and detest hi-heels, over make-up and glitter, but that’s another subject to be disgust!

  • Thornhill says:

    My standard attire for the opera and orchestra is a dress shirt, jeans, and fashion sneakers. When I’ve been to La Scala that’s what most men wore too.

    I still see lots of ties and blazers at the Met Opera, but easily half have to be from first timers and the other half 80+ year old men.