Title Last Verse of Hell From Dante’s Divine Comedy

The terror of the musicians and singers to the booing of the demanding loggionisti, the ecstasy at the endless applause or the disappointment at the whip of the indifference of an audience increasingly populated by tourists and eccentric millionaires will have to wait another year.

An amphitheater and boxes completely empty as they had not been since the Second World War, a trench scene and cultural survival that La Scala in Milan carefully prepared to be able to bring to fruition in times of pandemic the opening of the most media season in the operatic world.

First the anthem of Italy sung by a cleaner who remembered recent old times sounded; the machinists, electricians, singers entered. All with a mask. The title said it all, to A riverder le stelle, the last verse of Hell from Dante’s Divine Comedy. It is not clear, however, if the stars will reappear anytime soon. At the moment, only those that paraded through the Milanese theater stage in a greatest operatic hits never seen here on a day like this.

La Scala had planned to open its course with an ambitious Lucia di Lammermoor by Davide Livermore, former artistic director of the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia, who consummated her triplet by cutting the season’s seal on Saint Ambrose’s day.

But it made no sense without an audience, with a cast compromised by travel and safety restrictions. Especially in the city that has suffered the most in Italy in recent months and that has not yet healed its deep wounds. The choice was then made for a show designed for television, fragmented and with an unusual parade of artists in an opening of this type.

There were 24 voices from the operatic constellation that went from Luca Salsi, who performed the Cortigiani vil razza dannata del Rigoletto by Verdi, to Juan Diego Flórez (with Una furtiva lacrima), to Roberto Alagna (who returned to La Scala after having sworn 14 years that he would not return after being booed with an Aida) and a redeemed Plácido Domingo.

The show began with Rigoletto and closed with the cathartic ending of Guillermo Tell. A sequence accompanied by images of the Tosca performed in 1946, when La Scala reopened after the war. Such a distant and near scene in these times. The challenge proposed by mayor Dominique Meyer and director Riccardo Chailly, with their backs to the stage all the time, sought to overcome the limitations of the pandemic.

A perfect challenge for Livermore, used to working with technological formats. A warning of the times to come and what this year has been in terms of cultural diffusion: Rai 5 will broadcast 1,200 hours of music compared to 250 in 2019.

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