Milan’s La Scala opera house to reopen to public after six months

Emotions are running high in Milan as the city’s famed La Scala opera house prepares to reopen to a smaller-than-usual audience on Monday evening.

Milan's La Scala opera house to reopen to public after six months
Milan's La Scala Opera House ahead of its reopening on May 10th, 2021, to a limited audience. Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Arias are set to reverberate once again throughout Milan’s La Scala later on Monday when the mythical Italian opera house reopens to the public after six months of silence amid the pandemic.

The performance comes a day before the 75th anniversary of a historic concert in 1946 that celebrated the postwar reopening of La Scala, which had been bombed three years earlier and rebuilt.

“It’s a double rebirth: (conductor Arturo) Toscanini opened La Scala after the war and we are trying to revive it after the pandemic, there is the same will to survive,” Stefano Cardo, a bass clarinettist in the La Scala orchestra, told AFP on his way to rehearsals.

READ ALSO: Schools, restaurants, gyms, travel: Here’s Italy’s timetable for reopening

The storied opera house in Italy’s financial capital has felt the impact of the pandemic, with a total of 144 cases of Covid-19, including 64 in the chorus, according to its management.

Renowned for its exceptional acoustics and red velvet-draped boxes, technicians have been busily getting the ornate opera house ready to reopen on Monday evening.


To respect social distancing, musicians will take over the ground-floor seating area, with the audience confined to the balconies.

Only 500 spectators are admitted per performance – a quarter of La Scala’s normal capacity of 2,000.

But with no intermission and the bars closed, one sound that will be missing is the usual clinking of champagne flutes.

Instead, guests will be using hand sanitizing gel, wearing masks and undergoing temperature checks.

READ MORE: What will Italy’s coronavirus rules be for summer 2021?

Cardo admitted to being “a little nervous” before the concert on Monday evening, which begins with the majestic “Patria Oppressa” (“Oppressed Fatherland”) from Giuseppe Verdi’s “Macbeth”.

Performed by the La Scala Chorus, it will be led by musical director Riccardo Chailly. 

“We have recorded many concerts in streaming, but it was virtual, here it’s different, with the public it’s an intense moment of emotion that we share, as the final applause that we missed,” Cardo said.

“We have all listened to recorded concerts from our armchairs, but this has nothing to do with the emotion of live music, the quality and beauty of natural sound,” said Dominique Meyer, La Scala’s director since 2020.

Director of La Scala Dominique Meyer. Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP

“I am sure that with the return of the spectators to La Scala, there will be tears of joy,” the Frenchman, who previously headed the Vienna Opera for a decade, said.

Making her La Scala debut on Monday will be Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen, interpreting arias from Wagner’s “Tannhaeuser”, Richard Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos” and Tchaikovsky’s “Queen of Spades”.

 The concert ends with the famous chorus of slaves, “Va, pensiero”, from Verdi’s “Nabucco”, the ode to freedom also sung during Toscanini’s concert in 1946.

‘Signalling Italy’s revival’ 

La Scala’s reopening was preceded by Italian conductor Riccardo Muti leading the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra for the first time in more than five months on Sunday in the northern Italian city of Ravenna.

 And Muti returns to La Scala on Tuesday for the 75th anniversary.

“La Scala has always been a symbol for the Milanese and for Italy, it is the second Italian brand in terms of reputation, behind Ferrari,” said Meyer.

“Paradoxically, it is La Scala giving the signal for the revival of an entire country, whereas at the beginning of the health crisis, it was said that culture was not an essential activity,” he added, noting the extended closures of theatres.

Despite having performed virtually, musicians and singers said it was no substitute for the thrill of a concert.

“It was sad to stay closed for so long. The passion was missing, preparing a concert is part of a musician’s life, his identity,” said Damiano Cottalasso, a 54 year-old violinist in the orchestra.

By AFP’s Brigitte Hagemann

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Six downsides to expect from life in Milan

Milan is popular among international residents thanks to its job market, nightlife and public transport. But what are the downsides of life in the northern Italian city, and how bad are they really?

Six downsides to expect from life in Milan

Milan is one of the most popular Italian cities among foreigners, with over 475,000 international residents (around 14.7 percent of the city’s total population).

After Rome, Milan is also the second-most popular Italian destination among native English speakers, with UK and US nationals leading the pack with 2,380 and 1,500 residents respectively.

READ ALSO: Ten things you need to know before moving to Italy

But, while life under la Madonnina comes with a number of attractive upsides, residents also have their share of complaints: in fact, the city is regularly voted one of the “worst” in the world for foreigners to move to.

So what are the potential negatives to know about if you’re planning a move to Milan?

Expensive accommodation

Whether you’re renting or buying, finding accommodation in Milan will not come cheap. 

According to the latest data from property market portal Wikicasa, monthly rent comes at an average of around €22 per square metre – that’s €6 over the regional average, and almost €10 higher than national average. 

READ ALSO: ‘It takes time’: Foreign residents on what it’s really like to live in Milan

According to Numbeo estimates, renting a one-bedroom flat in the city centre will set you back over €1,400 a month on average, while renting the same type of flat in the outskirts will come at an average monthly price of around €950. 

If you’re looking to purchase a property in the city, the average asking price is €5,470 per square metre – that’s more than €3,000 over the regional average, and over €3,500 above the national average (€1,910 per square metre).

Milan, view

A general view of Milan in April 2023 from the Foundazione Prada building. Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

High cost of living 

Over the past few years, Milan has consistently ranked amongst the Italian cities with the higher living costs (it took the title of most expensive Italian city to live in in 2022).

According to estimates from online investment advisor Moneyfarm, the average Milan family spends around €450 a month on groceries, €50 more than the average family in Rome.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to live in Milan in 2024?

A restaurant meal in Milan will also generally cost you more than in most other Italian cities. For instance, a three-course meal for two in a mid-range city restaurant will set you back around €80 in Milan, while the national average stands at €50.

As for utility bills, monthly bollette for an 85-square-metre flat in Milan are estimated to add up to an average of €252.

Questionable driving 

If you have never driven in Milan before, it may take you some time to get accustomed to local driving habits. 

Milan is a bustling city where everyone seems to always be in a rush. This goes for motorists too, who tend to routinely neglect speed limits and traffic signs.

Overall, defensive driving is strongly advised for people that are new to the city.


Though it slid down from second to tenth place in the latest ranking of the most polluted Italian cities by environmental watchdog Legambiente, Milan residents continue to breathe some of the most polluted air in the country.

The city’s population density, road traffic and heavily industrialised outskirts all contribute to poor air quality, with the situation generally being worse during the cold months due to dry spells.

READ ALSO: ‘I’ve lost hope’: What it’s like living in Italy’s most polluted cities

Anti-smog measures, including bans on high-emission vehicles, were introduced in late February in Milan after particulate matter (PM10) levels exceeded limits for a fourth day in a row. 

Smog, Milan

A blanket of smog covers Milan’s skyline on February 21st 2024. Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

Not-so-Mediterranean climate

Italy is generally known for its sunny and pleasantly warm weather conditions for the most part of a year, but Milan has little in the way of that. 

Summers in the city are hot (between 25C and 30C on average during the day) and very, very humid, while winters are fairly cold (temperatures range from -2C to 8C on average) and gloomy. 

READ ALSO: Six essential apps that make life in Milan easier

Also, Milan has between 80 to 90 rainy days a year, with May generally being the rainiest time of the year.

Critical taxi shortage 

This is an issue that is by no means specific to Milan alone, as most major cities in Italy have long been dealing with cab shortages. 

But to give you an idea of the scale of the problem, a recent report from Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera found that the Milan metropolitan area has around 500,000 “unresolved calls” – that is, people who try and fail to book a taxi – every month. 

READ ALSO: Italy’s taxis are often a nightmare, but will things ever change?

Normal Uber services are not available in the city; Uber Black services are, but a ride won’t come cheap (a ride from central Milan to Malpensa airport can cost between €170 and €305).

If you live in Milan, do the positives outweigh the negatives? Let us know in the comments below.