Tuesday evening we attended our first performance at Teatro Alla Scala - Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri. Here we are, in our operatic finery, outside the theater:
As you can see, the facade of La Scala is somewhat plain. But once inside, you are transported to a world of elegance and beauty. It may be the most beautiful theater in the world:
L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers) is one of the three great Rossini comedies, along with La Cenerentola and Il Barbiere di Siviglia. It is a delightful opera, and I hope to present it one day at Portland Opera.
The performance at La Scala was mixed - an uneven cast, and a rather tired revival of the Jean Pierre Ponnelle production, first introduced decades ago. The conducting, however, was spirited and elegant. And the conductor was none other then Antonello Allemandi, last seen on the podium at Portland Opera conducting our 2009 La Boheme production!
Clare Burovac, Portland Opera's Director of Artistic Operations, contacted Antonello and arranged for us to meet him backstage! Here we are, after the performance, with Antonello outside his dressing room:
The best singing of the evening was from the young American tenor, Lawrence Brownlee as Lindoro. Larry is one of the best Rossini tenors in the world today, and he gave a superb performance. Here's his website:
Clare is a friend and colleague of Larry's, having worked with him during her many years as production stage manager of Seattle Opera. In addition to Antonello, she also arranged for us to meet Larry backstage! Here we are, surrounding the star of the evening:
Larry could not have been more gracious. He was very happy to meet everyone in our group, and signed many programs. Here he is chatting with Barbara Wassmer, and Louis and Judy McCraw:
Thank you, Clare, for arranging these very special backstage visits at La Scala. I'm sure our patrons will remember them as a highlight of the trip. Mille Grazie, Clara!
Wednesday, July 6
Wednesday was a free day for independent activities. Many visited Milan's famous Duomo and Galleria. I did some shopping, and visited a Ferrari dealer. There was a stunning fleet of cars parked in the piazza outside the store. A sales-woman encouraged me to take advantage of their special one-day offer: for a fee of only 100 Euros, I could test-drive a Ferrari! I choose instead to have my photo taken, with my friend Quinn ("The Eskimo"):
That evening we were back at La Scala for Verdi's Attila. This is one of the great early Verdi operas, and the performance was thrilling - particularly the conducting of Nicola Luisotti. Attila has four demanding lead roles, and it's also a great showcase for the chorus. While most of the lead performances were solid and professional (some were very good), the chorus and orchestra were the true stars of the evening.
A typical Verdi chorus (for one of his grand operas) will be between 54 and 60 singers. Clare and I guessed there were around 80 singers in the chorus that night. They produced a wall of sound that was overwhelming, especially in the excellent acoustics of La Scala's theater! The performance was a great finale to our Milan visit.
Here I am with new friend, Britta Franz (from Salem), in the lobby of La Scala after the opera. Both of us glowing from the glory of Verdi's music, and perhaps a bit reluctant to leave such a magnificent opera house:
Afterwards, we all met back at the hotel, where Jacqueline hosted a light supper. There was very animated talk of the performance, and the trip thus far. Our group is having a great time - seeing Italy, sharing good food and drink, getting to know each other, and experiencing this incredible art form known as opera.
That evening I kept thinking of a photograph I saw on the wall next to Antonello's dressing room backstage (you can see part of it in that photo of us). It's a faded picture of Verdi outside La Scala, reading a newspaper. He's standing near the spot where our group photo was taken. I kept thinking about him being inside that same theater (many of his operas premiered at La Scala), where we had just seen his Attila.
Just like we do at Portland Opera when we're in rehearsal at the theater, I'm sure he was backstage checking on the set and costume designs, correcting/adjusting the orchestra parts, coaching the singers, checking the balance between orchestra and voices, giving endless notes, and perhaps arguing with any number of people that day.
During rehearsal breaks he might leave the theater, grab a coffee, or read a newspaper. And one day someone photographed him doing so...