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La Scala announces fall season as cultural life resumes

MILAN – The famed La Scala opera house on Monday announced a fall program of concerts and ballets aimed as a signal of confidence that European cultural life can resume in full following the coronavirus lockdowns, and in support of artists who were left out of work during the shutdowns.

La Scala’s musical director, Riccardo Chailly, will launch the season Sept. 4 by conducting Verdi’s Requiem in Milan’s Duomo dedicated to victims of the coronavirus, followed by dates in Bergamo and Brescia, in solidarity with two of the hardest-hit provinces in the Lombardy region that has accounted for nearly half of Italy’s dead and nearly 40% of all confirmed infections.

Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala praised the decision to reprise the Requiem in the two-hard hit provinces, saying “in a region that had nearly 17,000 dead, it had deep meaning.” The Sept. 4 concert will also be broadcast in churches throughout the region.

The theater itself will reopen on Sept. 12 with a performance reserved for health care workers of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, with its optimistic “Ode to Joy” movement. The limited calendar runs through Dec. 5, when La Scala’s former musical director, Daniel Barenboim, returns to the theater for a piano concert. Chailly will conduct 14 dates this fall, while Zubin Mehta takes on 12.

The fall program is envisioned in two parts, with distancing rules in play both on and off stage through Oct. 21, followed by a full opening of the theater, with productions and seating both normalized. That will mean two operas, La Traviata and Aida, will be presented as concerts in the first half, while La Boheme will be fully staged in November. A ballet featuring principal dancers including Roberto Bolle will be performed as a gala, before Giselle is staged in full.

“I am optimistic,” general manager Dominique Meyer said. “It is clear we can’t do the traditional theater from the beginning, but we will do our best so that these emotions of the theater can be rediscovered as soon as possible.”

The opera house normally announces the full season schedule in late spring, but due to the pandemic is limiting the schedule to dates through early December, leading up to the traditional Dec. 7 gala season-opener, which Meyer said he hopes can be held normally.

Meyer said that the theater had lost 23 million euros ($27 million) in box office sales due to the theater’s closure since February. The new schedule was devised with an eye to maintaining contractual agreements with artists engaged for a tour of Japan, which has been canceled by the virus.

In a show of solidarity, Barenboim has renounced payment for his performance.