This conference on the 2012-2013 Season is very different from those that were held in the past: it is taking place two days after the Treasury and the Ministry of Heritage and Culture bestowed the special organizational form envisaged by the law upon La Scala; that is, the autonomy that this theatre has always been seeking.
I find it strange and moving that this recognition, which was requested by Toscanini, by Ghiringhelli and all the superintendents that came before me, should arrive during my term of office. Four years ago, I presented my first request for autonomy for La Scala, and it is significant that it should materialize at this juncture in Italian life. I must thank the Government and Minister Ornaghi because, thanks to them, today we are bearing witness to the conclusion of a long and important course of events in the history of La Scala.
The double bicentenary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, a challenge for which La Scala has been preparing for many years, has very naturally imposed the theme of the 2012-2013 artistic season, which will be almost exclusively dedicated to the two composers that dominate Nineteenth-century operatic theatre.
Of the sixteen productions that will be staged from 7 December 2012 to 7 December 2013, eight are by Verdi and six by Wagner. There will be only two exceptions to the Verdi-Wagner pairing: a new opera in its first Italian performance, A Dog’s Heart by Alexsandr Raskatov, adapted from the satirical novel by Bulgakov. It will be conducted by Valery Gergiev and directed by one of the greatest directors of the present day, Simon McBurney, for the first time at La Scala. The other is an early work by Rossini, La scala di seta, staged as a showcase performance for the Academy, with the resumption of direction by Michieletto and conducted by Christophe Rousset.
In 2013, almost all the important or promising batons of the Italian school will be gathered at La Scala in the name of opera: Daniele Gatti will conduct La Traviata on 7 December 2013; Fabio Luisi, the next music director of The Metropolitan in New York, will be involved in the revival of Don Carlo; Nicola Luisotti will conduct the new production of Nabucco; Gianandrea Noseda will revive Aida; the youthful Daniele Rustioni will tackle Un ballo in maschera, and Riccardo Frizza will conduct Oberto conte di San Bonifacio, the first official title of the Verdi catalogue.
With this selection of appearances, practically every generation of Italian conductors will be working at La Scala, after the return of Claudio Abbado next October 2012, for the 70th birthday of Barenboim, and in view of the commitment of Riccardo Chailly with a great symphonic project for the 150th anniversary of the birth of Strauss in 2014, and in particular, the opening of the Expo in 2015, with Turandot by Puccini with the Berio finale.
The work of these last years has always considered the renewal of the Verdi repertoire as one of its principal objectives, with a view to providing La Scala with a wealth of new shows for the coming years – for the Expo and beyond – especially on titles entrusted to productions with many years and shows behind them.
The result of this work is that, from 2015-2016, more than 40 titles of the Italian repertoire will be able to count on new performances, ready to be revived at any moment.
I have great faith in Mario Martone: he has created a beautiful double feature with Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, and, after the forthcoming Luisa Miller, he seemed to me, on account of his sensitivity, to be the ideal person to take over the rare Oberto, the opera with which Verdi made his debut at La Scala in 1839. It is an early opera, the conductor is the young but expert Riccardo Frizza, but above all, there is a wonderful cast of Italian lyric voices: Fabio Sartori, Sonia Ganassi, Maria Agresta, and Michele Pertusi.
The last staging of Nabucco in La Scala’s repertoire was in 1986. After twenty-seven years it was logical to think about a new production in 2013, and for the characters of this glorious title for La Scala, Verdi’s first great success in Milan, I decided to entrust the show to an exciting director – production designer combination, Daniele Abbado and Alison Chitty, who will offer an abstract and rigorous project. It came naturally to form a union with a conductor like Nicola Luisotti, who has demonstrated great affinity with the poetics and the language of the early Verdi. Singers? Leo Nucci, Ambrogio Maestri, Aleksandr Antonenko, Liudmila Monastyrska, Lucrezia Garcia, and Veronica Giorgio Barberio Corsetti commands a great deal of respect in Italian theatre, he has already staged several works of Shakespeare and he has good reasons for offering a modern and knowledgeable re-reading of the first of the three Shakespearian titles of Verdi, Macbeth, which dates back at La Scala in 1997. This visionary opera will be conducted by the maestro Valery Gergiev and will feature the singing talents of Franco Vassallo, Lucrezia Garcia, and Stefano Secco.
Damiano Michieletto is universally considered as one of the most remarkable directors in Italy. I asked him to work on a very modern project for Un ballo in maschera, a complex dramatic work, which was entrusted to a staging in 2001, and he brought me a fascinating and very revealing piece. In the project, the same emphasis is given to the baton of the young Rustioni as to the voices of Marcelo Alvarez, Zeljko Lucic, Sondra Radvanovsky, and Patrizia Ciofi.
The fifth new Verdi production, Falstaff, will be created by Robert Carsen, a director who has always lived up to expectations. His experience and his ability to delve deep into the work made him the ideal choice for me for Verdi’s last creation, another Shakespeare adaptation.
From Idomeneo in 2005, Daniel Harding has blossomed as an interpreter of many and varied repertoires, not least the Italian operas by Mascagni and Leoncavallo, and he is, by now, part of La Scala’s family. I believe that two Falstaffs such as Ambrogio Maestri and Bryn Terfel are as much as anyone can ask for, but credit also goes to Fabio Capitanucci’s interpretation of Ford, Barbara Frittoli’s Alice, Carlo Bosi’s Cajus, Francesco Demuro’s Fenton, Riccardo Botta’s Bardolfo, and Daniela Barcellona’s Mrs. Quickly.
The sixth new Verdi production, La Traviata, which opens the 2013-2014 Season but virtually closes the Verdi year 2013, will be entrusted to the Russian director Dmitri Cherniakov. In his splendid Evgenij Onegin at La Scala, with the artistic and technical cast of the Bolshoi, I witnessed a director who is adept at exploring the female world in depth, summarizing it in a portrait of a woman “in an interior”, as, they tell me, La Traviata is. Together with this directorial idea came the thought that the world-famous conductor Daniele Gatti could resume his relationship with La Scala. I am delighted. However, I confess that this Traviata was originally conceived thinking at Diana Damrau as Violetta.
As you can see, the Verdi programme comprises the first opera (Oberto) and the last (Falstaff). These two titles – which were staged at La Scala more than fifty years apart – seem to have been written by two different musicians, so remarkable is the evolution in Verdi’s musical style. And it is precisely this great evolution that the 2013 programme speaks about, because it contains operas that come from all the periods.
Our Verdi season is an “anthology” of all his works, to the extent that, when we organized the conferences on the “Prima delle Prime”, we noted that they represented a cycle that was a unity unto itself. If you observe the title of each encounter, you will also see a subtitle that refers to the years in which the individual opera is located: those that follow all the conferences will also glean an idea of the life and works of Verdi, from start to finish.
There is a special project set within this Season: the Ring – that is, the four operas that make up the Tetralogy – performed in a unified form, as Wagner intended, during the same week and for two consecutive weeks.
This has not been done at La Scala, in this form, since 1938.
This is an absolutely extraordinary event which, if on one hand traditionally certifies the potential of a theatre, on the other, commits the artistic quality and the production capacity to the highest degree.
The Ring project at La Scala has several intertwined meanings and 1) it concludes the project that began in 2010 with Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, was carried forward in 2012 with Siegfried and perfected in 2013 with Götterdämmerung;
2) it presents La Scala to the world as a theatre that is also capable of attaining significant results with its German repertoire (as, moreover, its history documents, with Toscanini, Panizza and De Sabata, not to mention Siegfried Wagner, Clemens Krauss, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Herbert von Karajan, and André Cluytens, all hailed as conductors of major performances of the Ring cycle at La Scala);
3) it bears witness to an ability to attract audiences that derives from its international renown and the Wagnerian reputation of the Musical Director, Daniel Barenboim; 4) it offers foreign audiences an imposing yet enjoyable project in a short space of time: Das Rheingold on Monday, Die Walküre on Tuesday, Siegfried on Thursday and Götterdämmerung on Saturday.
The Ring is proposed as a themed mini festival inserted into the season, with its own season ticket. Side by side with the Ring, the Wagner programme offers three operas: a) Götterdämmerung, the last opera of the Tetralogy, plus two more lyrical and romantic titles by Wagner; b) Lohengrin, 7 December 2012, again conducted by Daniel Barenboim and directed by Claus Guth, whose acquaintance you have just made with Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten; c) Der fliegende Holländer, in March, conducted by Hartmut Haenchen and directed by Andrea Homoki, with Bryn Terfel in the lead role.
The Ballet programme concentrates on proposing major titles, full-evening shows and the revival of classic productions. The first show of the Season, Roméo et Juliette by Berlioz, choreographed by Sasha Waltz, is an authentic masterpiece of its kind. I am proud that an artist whom I admire is making her debut here: Sasha Waltz has never been at La Scala and we are delighted that she agreed so enthusiastically to work with our Company. On the podium we will have James Conlon, to continue on the path begun with Barenboim and Harding: giving Ballet music everything that good music deserves.
Then we will once again have Nôtre-Dame de Paris, paying homage to the late Roland Petit, whom I was fortunate to know and work with.
Other comebacks include Giselle, which was hailed an enormous success in all its new performances this year, Swan Lake, L’altra metà del cielo and finally, L’histoire de Manon.
All the revivals of the great classic titles are distinguished by the constant presence of two “in-house” stars, Roberto Bolle and Svetlana Zakharova, with the addition of no-less-extraordinary guests such as Aurèlie Dupont, Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev.
For the symphonic season, for several years we have been committed to confirming or establishing bonds with the greatest conductors on the musical scene, who in 2013 will be Christoph von Dóhnanyi, Daniel Harding, Robin Ticciati, Nicola Luisotti, Gianandrea Noseda, and Ingo Metzmacher, from whom I requested a concert dedicated to Luciano Berio, to mark the tenth anniversary of his passing.
The 150 years since the birth of Debussy (to be celebrated in 2012), on the other hand, suggested to me a full programme of compositions for piano, in four dates in the Toscanini Foyer, with Alain Planès.
And the 70 years since the death of Rachmaninov, to whom Gianandrea Noseda will dedicate his symphonic appointment, have materialized a review of chamber music, accompanied by testimonies, conferences and a film, also covering four days and held in the Toscanini Foyer.
The 7 Concerts for Voice will be an indisputable showcase of the voices that the audience of a theatre such as La Scala also wishes to hear in the chamber music dimension of recital: Vittorio Grigolo, Jonas Kaufmann, Joyce DiDonato, Angela Gheorghiu, Juan-Diego Flórez, and Matthias Goerne, with a very special evening on 6 May, when Barbara Frittoli will sing accompanied by Daniel Barenboim and the clarinet of Fabrizio In 2013, the musical offering will be the most illustrious of recent years and the playbill will feature more than twenty titles: twenty-one to be precise. But this is not enough: in a few months, before the end of 2012, our external activity will be stepped up considerably, in terms of quantity and quality. This, too, is thanks to the driving force of the Verdi celebrations around the world.
Verdi’s Messa da Requiem will be recorded live in the theatre in August, and immediately afterwards taken on tour with Daniel Barenboim and a quartet of voices consisting of Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann, Elina Garan?a, and René Pape. The DVD will be released in 2013, together with a Verdi CD with the Quattro pezzi sacri and the Quartetto per archi in the orchestral version.
This is the calendar: on 27 August at La Scala, a special performance of the Messa da Requiem as an exceptional preview of the departing tour; on 29 August, we will be at the Lucerne Festival; on 1 September at the Salzburg Festival, and that same evening we will be leaving for Moscow, where in one week we will hold three recitals of Don Giovanni and a concert at the Bolshoi.
In 2013, the Requiem will bring us back to the Berlin Philharmonic Concert Hall, after the notable success of the two recent concerts of the Philharmonic, again for the Easter Festival.
However, the most demanding tour, again regarding Verdi, will be the one which brings the Theatre in its entirety to Asia for 5 weeks and 22 evenings: a return to Japan that has by now become a tradition with Falstaff conducted by Daniel Harding, Rigoletto conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, and the classical ballet Roméo et Juliette (choreographed by McMillan); and then, the arrival for the first time in China, in Beijing, with Aida (conducted by Dudamel). In both countries they will be accompanied by symphonic-choral concerts.
Any celebratory season already contains the promise of collateral 12 activities that enrich the playbill. Together with the Municipality of Milan, we will ensure the continuation of the fine experience of Don Giovanni, which favoured various kinds of “fallout” on the city, and in areas that had never before been affected by the activity of La Scala. We will create Verdi trails, also involving significant and new places in that “city of Culture” that is arising in the Old Town, such as the gorgeous National Galleries in Piazza Scala and Via Manzoni. However, in the theatre, too, we will be offering “eccentric” dates.
Wagner, conferences and films
There is no doubt that the audience of Der Ring des Nibelungen will arrive with their homework all done, but for those wishing to revise the plot and a few important leitmotifs, we are offering a brief and simple piano presentation before each recital in the Toscanini Foyer.
During the scheduling of the Ring, the Theatre will also be opened for two screenings of films associated with Wagner, one for each cycle.
The first is the complete version of “Ludwig” by Luchino Visconti, which was in an incomplete version when it came to the halls in 1972. It also pays homage to the maestro from Milan, who directed Maria Callas on the stage of La Scala in the lesson on identifying with characters that is part of her myth.
The other is the drama “Wagner” by Tony Palmer, the renowned English director specialized in biographies of musicians, who will attend the screenings in person to introduce his work to the public. The cast included Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Burton, Sir Laurence Olivier, and Sir John Gielgud.
Verdi, readings and trails
Many historians assert an uncomfortable truth: that with an artist it is better to consider the work and to put aside the man. But in the case of Verdi, it is not so. Verdi the man also remains as a “moral” point of reference for Italians in the time of the Risorgimento and the Unification of Italy. To Italy, Verdi represented firmness, courage, ethics, and the absoluteness of principles. His work and his life incarnate that which we could call the archetype of fatherly example.
There are those who claim – and we are in agreement with them – that deep down, in his librettos, even those apparently far removed from us, Verdi always recounted the typical Italian, with his defects, his merits, his character, and his identity.
Differently from Wagner, Verdi never wrote an autobiography, and he refused to do so when he was asked. However, he was aware that his letters would have been published one day – or he at least expected them to be, having entrusted them all to a letterbook – and perhaps for this reason they are so alive and interesting. Hence, on the day of the bicentennial of his birth – 10 October 2013 – we have decided that the voice of Verdi the man should resonate through a selection of his writings. They will be read on stage by personalities from the worlds of culture, civil society, and politics, given that Verdi was also their colleague, as a senator of the first united Italian State.
When I arrived at La Scala, 2013 seemed very far away. However, fate decreed that my life would coincide with this celebration. I am rather moved to be general manager and artistic director of La Scala in the year of Verdi. Is this good or bad luck?
I have to say it is good. I have put a great deal of work into this project, and I am delighted that so many artists – conductors, singers, and directors – all said yes to me in the end.
We look forward to the return of Claudio Abbado. We have great journeys ahead of us, in Europe of the traditions and in the Far East of the future. Every evening the theatre is full to 97% capacity. Our patrons have faith in us and the numbers have increased.
La Scala is fulfilling its obligation as a public theatre thanks in particular to the commitment of its workers, with the support of public entities, and with the constant presence, near to me and to the Board of Directors, of the President Giuliano Pisapia, and the Vice President Bruno Ermolli. I am extremely grateful to both. And we would not have reached this point along our path without the decisive support of our founding members and our numerous sponsors. Everyone acts under the belief that the development of democratic civil society can only come from culture.
Italy and Europe are experiencing difficult times. But celebrating Verdi there is a vivacious Teatro alla Scala, which refuses to give up and looks to the future.
Stéphane Lissner, General Manager and Artistic Director
Four operas, four performances, 15 hours of music, all with just one single subscription. In 2013, the year that celebrates both Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner’s births (1813), Teatro alla Scala is offering audiences a rare opportunity: the complete Ring in one week. Das Rheingold on Monday, Die Walküre on Tuesday, Siegfried on Thursday, and Götterdammerung on Saturday.
The productions of the Cycle differ from one another, but all are bound up with a common project developed over recent years by Belgian conductor Guy Cassiers, with a keen eye for the languages of our times, including technological ones. Daniel Barenboim’s conducting gives the music the strength of a solid Wagnerian identity, one of the most admired of the music world today, taking up the legacy of the great German executive tradition. The voices of the four casts have been chosen from among the best Wagnerian voices in the world.
La Scala is offering its audiences Wagner’s Tetralogy in one single breath, just as Wagner conceived it and performed it for the first time ever on August 1876 as a model for any future performances. Staged as “One prologue and three days” from Monday to Saturday, the event allows audiences, in particular foreign visitors, to program their week of city visits and side-events. It also enables them to plan their stay and make travel arrangements with the most affordable fares.
Please download the brochure of the Ring, introducing our artistic project together with the proposal we are delighted to be offering for the Cycle.
We look forward to welcoming you to the Theatre.
For information write to email@example.com or call +39 02 88796987 any day between 12 and 6 pm. Any further information can be found at teatroallascala.org/ring online from 23 February at 9 am.