Milan's La Scala stands ready to reopen on Dec. 7 after a two-year makeover, which includes the latest in acoustics and stage mechanics, a revamped floor, and new rehearsal rooms and offices. (Luca Bruno -- AP)
The Very Model of a Modern Major Opera House
Milan's Refurbished La Scala Steps Up to the 21st Century
By Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, November 29, 2004; Page C01
MILAN -- Near the stage of Teatro alla Scala, inside a second-level box, stands a fireplace. The box belonged to Giuseppe Piermarini, architect of the 18th-century theater, and the fireplace was useful in many ways. Central heating was unknown, and since operas were all-day affairs, it was convenient to have someplace for servants to cook up a cutlet or polenta to ease hunger between acts. If the performance was a bust, a nice, soft-boiled tomato could be made readily available to be tossed onstage.
The original form and light blue color of Piermarini's loge was a surprise discovery recently, as La Scala has been completely renovated for the first time since it was built in 1776.
Not just a plaster fix here and there or a repair after World War II bombing or construction of a lobby where one never existed or a wiring of the place for electricity. Instead, a new theater has grown up within La Scala's neoclassical walls, which for opera lovers is Yankee Stadium, Madrid's Las Ventas bullring and London's Globe Theatre rolled into one.
On the surface, it is still the familiar La Scala, with its dowdy neoclassical shape, yellow walls, gilt decoration and oversize chandeliers. But a two-year makeover has made it altogether something new. It contains the latest in acoustics, up-to-date stage mechanics, an expanded stage, more seating, a revamped floor and new rehearsal rooms and offices hidden among towers at the rear of the building.
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