While many European theaters remain closed due to the pandemic, the famous Teatro alla Scala opened its new season on Tuesday with the gala premiere of Verdi’s âMacbethâ in a fully seated venue.
Despite the sparkling evening outfits and a guest list that included Giorgio Armani and Italian President Sergio Mattarella, the mood was more subdued than usual for the event which is considered a highlight on the European cultural calendar.
The admiring crowd rained flowers from the tiered balconies on star baritone Luca Salsi who sang the title role and Russian soprano Anna Netrebko as Lady Macbeth.
But there were mixed reviews from the strictly traditionalist upper levels of La Scala for the modern staging of Davide Livermore, who received a handful of boos during the 11-minute callbacks for the entire cast and of the orchestra.
“Macbeth” completed the trilogy of young Verdi operas by musical director Riccardo Chailly after “Giovanna d’Arca” in 2015 and “Attila” in 2018.
Livermore, in its fourth consecutive La Scala premiere, brought Shakespearean tragedy to a contemporary city of skyscrapers, with video footage projecting a dystopian fate as it falls under the tyranny of Macbeth. The staging was an intricate choreography weaving together the choir and a mime troupe in largely horizontal movements, while the stars were transported on and off the stage vertically, often in a golden elevator.
Netrebko, stunned by a dreamlike ballet in the third act, was the first to defend the staging.
âI think this production is absolutely amazing, breathtaking, modern, new,â she said. âIt’s a new world in opera and we love it,â she said.
She and Salsi said they see modern performance as the future of opera.
âIf we want to keep watching operas with painted sets and still singers, maybe we can stay home and listen to records, which is better,â Salsi said backstage. “We have worked to make a show that I find beautiful, grand, new and modern, which projects opera into the future.”
La Scala resumed performances at full capacity in September, but pandemic considerations remain: attendees had to show a health pass stating that they had been vaccinated or had recently recovered from the virus under new government regulations launched this week for the holiday season. And masks were mandatory.
Following last year’s televised premier, the in-person season opener has been a positive signal for one of the world’s best opera houses, although live performances elsewhere continue to suffer as the virus takes a hit. winter resurgence.
âWhen you see so many great theaters closed – my old theater (Vienna State Opera), Dresden closed, Leipzig closed, etc., etc., a long list – I must say we are lucky to arrive to the first. The general manager of La Scala, Dominique Meyer, said.
Sitting in the royal box, Mattarella received five minutes of enthusiastic applause as she arrived for the opera – a token of appreciation from the highly institutional crowd of figures from the fashion and arts industry as she arrived for the opera. ‘he is nearing the end of his term next year.
After the latest encore, the VIP crowd in all their finery melted into Milan’s cityscape, without a gala dinner to celebrate the sold-out on opening night, another sign of the continuing grip of the pandemic .