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Milan’s La Scala opera house gets green light for richer seasons in its first three-year plan

by Giovanna Mancini

Milan’s La Scala opera house has received the go-ahead for its new season and first three-year plan.

This follows months of debate between the line of Artistic Director and Chief Executive Alexander Pereira – who believes in the need to offer a richer variety of operas and ballets compared to the past – and that of more cautious board members, keen on the other hand to contain production costs. Yesterday morning Pereira’s position prevailed and the three-year plan of the theater was approved by the board, with just one abstention.

The choice to produce richer seasons compared to the past has been confirmed, with about 15 opera titles in the billing (compared to 12-13 which traditionally were performed before the “special” season during Expo Milano 2015), and an annual budget of around €120 million (€121 million in 2017), along the lines of what happened from 2015 onward, coinciding with the arrival of Pereira.

The 2017/18 season, which will be opened on December 7 by “Andrea Chènier” by Umberto Giordano directed by Riccardo Chailly, will be presented in detail May 31. Meanwhile there will be nine ballets, two courtesy of the Bolshoi of Moscow. Fans of Riccardo Muti will have to wait at least until the next season to see the return of the conductor, maybe with Alfredo Catalani’s “La Wally”.

Nevertheless, this line of “intensified” rhythm in production has not convinced all board members and for this reason the approval of the three-year plan had been delayed in past months. Among the most critical was the representative of the Lombardy region, the Culture Councillor Cristina Cappellini (absent yesterday morning) and Francesco Micheli, nominated on the board by the Culture Ministry, who abstained.

“I did not vote against it to avoid a divide,” Micheli said. “But I remain convinced that the current economic situation in the country and the uncertain prospects call for greater caution. Increasing production is risky in a moment in which public contributions are increasingly limited and furthermore it is a struggle to fill theater rooms even for masterpieces.”

The ideal formula, according to Micheli, would be an annual billing with 12 or at the most 13 operas in the program. But Pereira argues that greater production is useful for increasing the fame of the La Scala brand in the world and therefore could help attract private investments, also from abroad.

“Accounts are in order,” Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala, who is also president of the foundation, said at the end of the meeting. The mayor appeared satisfied with the outcome of the vote. “There was one abstention, but no one voted against and I consider that a good thing.”

The approval of the three-year plan was expected by unions, who in recent weeks are involved in discussions with management over the essential staffing level of the theater, which the new three-year plan will also have an impact on.

Workers are in fact asking that, faced with production that will remain on the same level of the last two years, also the staff (920 employees) should be confirmed. Meetings will start again in these days (the first is supposed to be today) to reach the approval of the essential staffing level on the part of the board as soon as possible.

It will then have to be approved by the ministry. Only after that will discussions on the economic part of the contract and the organizational model of the theater be able to start.