Who gets boos at La Scala’s opening night?

Who gets boos at La Scala’s opening night?


norman lebrecht

December 08, 2021

There was a 12-minute ovation last night for Macbeth, mingled with scattered boos.

The Austrian tabloid Kurier says the dissent was aimed unusually at the soprano Anna Netrebko.

Reuters says it was directed at Davide Livermore’s production.

photo: Instagram


  • PS says:

    I love film noir, but this does look awful.

    • IP says:

      It was a nice touch having King Duncan assassinated in a Wassily chair, but don’t tell me there was anything novel or surprising in it.

    • Brian says:

      I haven’t read any reviews yet but the trailer above kind of intrigued me, between the video imagery, the shadowy lighting and the car (is that an Alfa Romeo?).

  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    One thing is sure it was not for Chailly and Martarella. But I think there’s more probability that it was for Livermore.

    • Me says:

      Martarella? Martarella? Which Marta?

    • David Spence says:

      Several major issues come to mind. For sake of context, the roar of applause with which YNS is greeted at the Met, after what I judge to be really shoddy work more than half the time. including with the Tosca earlier this month – and Chailly gets lukewarm applause for the Macbeth on its opening night, I judge due to his overuse of Davide Livermore – one could do worse – who is a mediocre producer. Might Chailly’s days in Milan be numbered then? I have no soothsayer handy, so I have to reply on either this site or parterre.com.

      Who is still around who may have attended any opening or visit by the Giorgio Strehler production of Macbeth (or of Simon Boccanegra)? it is only available on grainy looking air-checks on either youtube or from Berkshire. Harold Schonberg wrote a very scathing review of it when it visited here way back when, but then let me tell ya – how very refreshing the simple, austere visuals after all the clutter that got thrown in front of us from Milan last week. At least from a Giorgio Strehler, or for that matter from a Luca Ronconi, there was a standard. From a David McVicar or Davide Livermore, it is just almost anything goes. McVicar with Tosca at the Met cannot insist on things remaining acoustically placed correctly, making then a mess out of two brief episodes in Act Two thereof. I do have to admit I enjoyed the Lady Macbeth Dance in the Macbeth – a Straussian touch perhaps – but the weight she has put on as of late …. Meh! What good solo singing there was last week from Milan and the good orchestral and choral work made viewing Macbeth halfway sustainable, but why have to settle for less then than we should?

  • Paul Dawson says:

    If producers started to take curtain calls, the uncertainty about the targets of the boos would be greatly reduced.

  • gimel says:

    Isn’t it rather easy to tell? Was she booed after her Vieni, t’affretta…?

    Anyway, it’s going to be on Arte, so we can all judge.

    There are more Netrebko Lady Macbeths on youtube from more opera houses and more concert recitals than Callas and Verrett combined.


    Ubiquitous media exposure is not necessarily commensurate with merit. Just a function of technology.

    • PS says:

      Speaking of Callas, I got the new Lyric and Coloratura Arias book. I’ll read it soon.

    • operacentric says:

      It was live/delayed relay on Arte France and Germany and live on RAI. I dont know whether they will put up on Arte Concert for replay – it’s not there at the moment.

      Not sure what’s happened to Netrebko – I know Verdi asked for a “brutta voce” (ugly voice) so I guess he would have been delighted.

      • guest says:

        The Verdi quote has been misused for decades to justify veristic vocal excesses and dubiously trained voices (Not by you, I assume your comment isn’t justificatory but critical.) No, Verdi would not have been delighted. For starters, Verdi wasn’t asking for an ugly voice, he was asking for an “ugly” (read villainous) character. “Voglio una Lady brutta e cattiva.”

        About the voice: “La Tadolini canta alla perfezione e io vorrei che Lady non cantasse. La Tadolini ha una voce stupenda, chiara, limpida, potente: e io vorrei in Lady una voce aspra, soffocata, cupa… una voce che avesse del DIABOLICO”. His words should be understood in the context of the belcanto tradition. Tadolini’s greatest triumphs had been in Elisir and Don Pasquale. Verdi wasn’t asking for a literally rough and stifled voice, what he was asking for was the diabolical bit, he was asking for a soprano with an unusual timbre, who could act with the voice and impersonate a villainous, persuasive, tormented character, without falling in the vulgarity trap. He was asking for a voice who could unsettle the public, but unsettle them with the moral ugliness of the character created, not with her inability to sing the role ️ He was not asking for an odd assortment of pitches, by now almost every note in Netrebko’s range has a different color, not to mention her intonation problems. Nor was Verdi asking in 1848 for the kind of rough effects Mascagni liked to hear in Lina Bruna Rasa’s Santuzza 90 years later.

    • tristan says:

      just don’t compare Netrebko with Callas please like the overrated Mr Pereira has stupidly done

  • IP says:

    Slightly puzzled by the second video. They applauded someone in the royal box — Maria Callas? — and then they did Fratelli d’Italia. Touching and unthinkable in some other countries, but how does it belong here?

    • gimel says:

      News accounts say that they applauded the President of Italy for keeping the country safe enough that La Scala remained open even as Austria and Germany, in a reversal of fortune, remain closed.

      Considering the horrible start of Covid and the toll on Italy and the price they paid in 2019 and 2020, I do think the audience at La Scala”s heartfelt applause for the President, for themselves indeed, is well earned.

      Otherwise, I agree with you, applauding a royal box in an opera house is so 18th century it’s revolting.

      • Tommy says:

        What I’ve gathered living here in Italy is that many Italians would like him to remain in office so they were applauding. I believe he doesn’t care to.

    • Bonetti Micaela says:

      IP: it’s a custom that on Sant’Ambrogio’s prima della Scala public turns towards palco reale to applaud Italy’s president!

    • Bonetti Micaela says:

      IP: it’s a custom that on Sant’Ambrogio’s prima della Scala the public turns towards palco reale to applaud the Italian president!

    • IP says:

      I apologize to all Italians who may have found my stupid comment offensive or illiterate. I know it was Mattarella, and I found the whole quite touching. I was just thinking that it does not fit with this blog, which is mostly critical.

  • Robin Worth says:

    It is not for sure that Anna was booed
    The Kurier would not let me read the article in full and did suggest it, but both La Stampa and the Corriere said that Livermore was the target

    The Sant’Ambrogio season opening gala is always a big deal and the greatest applause (14 minutes) was for President Martarella. Giorgio Armani had dressed the house with thousands of roses and orchids and a Regietheater production may not have have been what the great and the good wanted.

    Having seen Netrebko dominate the Met and ROH in the part, I doubt that the first nighters would have been negative about the voice, although they may not have appreciated the dancing!

  • Modest M. says:

    Frank Castorf dared to face the angry (outraged) audience at Bayreuth after his horrible Ring. They booed him for a half hour and he just stood there with his arms folded. Someone should have let those crocodiles from Siegfried loose to gobble him up.

  • Milanese critic says:

    The booing was for both Livermore’s production and Netrebko’s singing. And it was not a smattering of boos. The booing was intense.

    • Tony says:

      The twelve minutes was filmed and is on you tube the director was heavily booed and there were a couple of boos for AN

      • sam says:

        I saw the youtube video, the booing for AN is very audible. She heard it, because she responds by waving her arms in the air as a boxer does when booed in the ring. A prima donna who was being cheered at La Scala would have bowed deeply, arm across bosom. Finally, an audience with discernment, unlike the Met audience with their knee-jerk bravas.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      She’s not very popular there the public seems to prefer Salsi

  • Carlo says:

    I was last night at La Scala……except Abdrazakov….the level was very very low…. Netrebko was booed after her first aria and at curtain calls. Production was always the same…seen and re-seen thousand time….same videos and costumes 2018’s and Attila production….Verdi’s Macbeth in another thing….Basta!!!!

  • YS says:

    As far as I am concerned, she really did not reach the high C at the end of the first aria “vieni, t’affreta” and had to change from high B to C. And also her voice seemed to be stressed often, also sometimes the voice somewhat cracked mostly when going from a higher note to a lower one… Obviously this heavy repertoire and her age seems to show up… I preferred her lyric repertoire anyway, to be honest

  • Mario says:

    Livermore hit a new low yesterday, and was targeted for appropriated reasons.

    • Jonathan Sutherland says:

      The fickle Milanese seem to have forgotten Giorgio Strehler’s masterful 1976 mis-en-scène.
      Davide Livermore’s Daily Planet production had as much to do with Shakespearian treason and treachery as a Maori Haka.
      That said, the idea of Macbeth and his mad misses having sex in a lift redefined ‘going down’.

  • IP says:

    OK, I have seen it now, and I cannot believe that this was the opening night of La Scala. Netrebko, whom some Russians call lovingly Nepotrebko, offered all the splendours of a voice in postretirement condition, just-just held together. However, the baritone was even worse – I sing a better Pieta, rispetto, amore in the shower, and I surely don’t sing onore instead of amore. He basically stops about where real singing begins, and the bass was about as good. Meli was the only real professional in the cast. The boos were definitely for Netrebko but her consort deserved them even more.

    • Robin Worth says:

      Thank you for this : seems that I guessed wrong earlier

      Sad to read the comments about AN’s voice having changed/developed for the worse. but they seem to be based on experience and one has to respect them

      I can only repeat that she was great at the MET, but admittedly that was some years ago

      • IP says:

        Well, it is not as if she were horrible, or botched anything seriously. The Una macchia was passable but the Vienni, afretta! did not project a devilish ambition (with tons of vocal reserve behind) but rather a woman concerned with getting to the end of the aria. Good enough for a Netrebko occasion, perhaps, but not for the opening night of the Scala, which is supposed to be the showcase of Italian singing as of 2021. And I still think that Mr. Macbeth deserves even harsher judgement.

  • Paul Capon says:

    Maybe the director of this Shakespearean opera could learn something from the latest reboot of another Shakespearean play – which has gone through several operas, musicals and films – West Side Story. Most critics have praised Steven Spielberg on his take of this most famous and “classical” of American Musicals. He approaches the work with respect yet seeks the relevance of today. This was also the approach of Lenard Bernstein and his librettist, Steven Sondheim. Equally, one could say that was true of Dimitri Shostakovich when he wrote Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Bernstein and Shostakovich (who met while on a visit to Moscow) have left us with indelible works which stand the test of time yet are respectful of the source. One wonder if this is true of some modern opera directors….