La Scala in uproar over Saudi minister on the board

La Scala in uproar over Saudi minister on the board


norman lebrecht

March 05, 2019

La Scala’s Sovrintendente Alexander Pereira says he has found a supporter who will bring in 15 million Euros over the next five years.

Sounds good?

The hitch is that the new donor is the Saudi Arabia culture minister, Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al Saud, and the price of his support is a seat on La Scala’s governing board.

Pereira says the appointment has the approval of the mayor of Milan.

The first media response was shock. The second, now building, is fury.



  • Sanity says:

    Well, a good number of leading (and not so leading) international houses are receiving donations of Russian – and highly dubious – origin; so why not Saudi Arabian money, too?

    Better hope those investigations into the Laundromat don’t get TOO thorough, eh?

    This is what happens when governments don’t understand that culture and its proper funding is pivotal to a safe and happy society.

    • Bogda says:

      I think you didn’t ge the point of the outrage. Issue is not so much the money, but the fact that they’ve got a seat on the Board.

  • Caravaggio says:

    Fury is right. I would not accept a single € from these tribal, corrupt, backward and, foremost, flagrant murderers. They think they can buy their way through the world despite their shade and crimes.

  • der rote falke says:

    La Scala’s problem is not Saudi Arabia, it is Riccardo Chailly.
    Get him out as soon as possible!!!

  • anon says:

    The Milanese would sell their soul to an Arab for a mere €3 million a year?

    That’s cheap even by Italian standards. The House of Saud had to pay $500 million for a supposed da Vinci (and not a good one at that).

  • Viola da Bracchio says:

    La Scala programming for next season – Saudi sponsorship is confidently expected:

    Dialogues of the Carmelites – features state repression of women, and an impressive mass beheading in the final scene.

    Turandot – features state beheading of unsuccessful suitors.

    Mazepa – a juicy end-of-Act on-stage beheading of the tyrant Mazeppa’s opponents (Kochubey & Iskra). In classic Saudi style, Kochubey’s daughter wanders around the final scene carrying his head in a sack…)

    The Crucible (Ward) – John Proctor is executed in the final scene, on the basis of false accusations.

    Salome – beheading of John the Baptist, no less.

    Judita Triumphans (Vivaldi) – Judith displays the head of Holofernes, which she has lopped off to serve him right (designer oppotunities to work-in Caravaggio’s visualisations of the final scene)

    Rigoletto – sadly no beheading, but does feature the female lead’s body dumped in a sack on the waterfront, with magnificent mutilation opportunities for special effects

    Maria Stuarda – another state beheading of an innocent woman

    By no means all are listed here! Plenty more opportunities for on-stage beheadings in upcoming seasons!!

    [NB In keeping with propriety, not a single opera of any kind will be staged now – or ever – in Saudi Arabia.]

  • Nik says:

    On the subject of La Scala, does anyone know why the press appears to be ignoring the new production of Khovanshchina that opened last Wednesday? I found a review in the FT (enthusiastic) but otherwise – silenzio. Nothing whatsoever in the Italian press. I know there are about a dozen different transliterations of the title but I’ve searched for them all and no results.

  • Think about this for a minute, and what it means when a high-level Saudi official wants to support the performing arts. With the exception of one IMAX theater in Khobar by Khalid, there were not even any cinemas in Saudi Arabia from 1983 to 2018. In 2018, as part of an ongoing process of modernization, the country opened its first cinema with a showing of “Black Panther.”

    And even more relevantly, in 2018, Saudi Arabia saw its first opera performance, a Lebanese company performing the legendary love story Antar and Alba. (Antar was a fabled pre-Islamic warrior and poet Antar and Alba was his Bedouin love.)

    And finally, the best of all, the Saudis are founding their first orchestra and opera house. They’ve engaged the Paris Opera to help them with this project.

    Saudi Arabia’s Sunni fundamentalism has been a huge problem. We should greet this progress with our support.

  • Sharon says:

    In my opinion, the real issue with Saudi Arabia is not that they behead murderers (they imprison but generally do not behead dissidents, although there are exceptions like the reporter at the Saudi embassy in Turkey) but instead their horrible human rights violations in Yemen–bombing civilian areas, not letting humanitarian aid get through, putting many areas of Yemen at risk for massive starvation–and these are their Muslim brothers. Unfortunately this has not gotten a lot of attention in the press, partially because reporters cannot get into large areas of Yemen.
    And the Saudis consider themselves to be the epitome of Islam! Anyone who is a Muslim should be ashamed.

  • Sharon says:

    (continued) Yeah, I know that the US, England and most European countries have done the same at various points in their histories but multiple wrongs don’t make a right. Furthermore, the US and most European countries at the time that they were committing atrocities did not claim to be the epitome of Christianity

  • Rgiarola says:

    I’m glad I’m not a milanesa! I’m mean, the name of people born and raised in Milan city. Not necessarily that deep fry breaded beef.