At our comfortable hotel, with the Cathedral of Milan (Il Duomo) and the covered shopping arcade Galleria Vittorio Emanuele just around the corner and the world-famous opera house La Scala four minutes walk away, a little excitement takes over the participants in the music journey we are on these days. In the city that breathes fashion, of unparalleled coffee, bakers who seduce their customers with a blissful smile and ubiquitous geniuses like Verdi and Da Vinci, we wait three nights in a row at the legendary La Scala.
Out of stock
“Try to get tickets for it,” say the experts, who have been on a music tour before. “Despite the 2800 seats, there are sometimes months sold out in advance. This is an important reason to choose a group trip. Everything is organized down to the smallest detail, even good restaurants. You will be with people who share similar interests, and thanks to the expert travel guide’s music comments, you know exactly what to expect and what to look out for. All you have to do is have fun. ”
Usually they make individual trips. With the motorhome through Europe, to the children in Australia or with a truck through Africa. But for a visit to Milan and La Scala, where greats like Maria Callas and Pavarotti caused a stir, they like to be with like-minded people.
“Look here is the conservatory where Verdi was rejected and which now bears his name,” says our cheerful city guide Esther Ghezzi in flawless Dutch. She has a Milanese father and a Dutch mother. A little further on, she points to the house where Maria Callas lived for ten years, and to the rest home Casa di Riposa, which Verdi founded just before her death in 1901 for poor artists. Verdi, who was the galleon figure for Italian opera, called it his most beautiful ‘opera’ in the sense of ‘work’. It was for musicians who had been less fortunate than him, or who had enjoyed their money instead of saving. “
Together with Esther we also visit one of the oldest museums in Italy, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, where there is a Caravaggio, work by Raphael, but also very aptly a portrait of a musician by Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci, whose Last Supper can be seen in the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, spent 19 years in Milan. In the Ambrosiana Library you can see amazing drawings of him from Codex Atlanticus.
In addition to art, the old Pinacoteca Brera Museum also houses the world-famous music library Archivo Ricordi.
Another centuries-old museum is the Pinacoteca Brera with the world-famous music library Archivo Ricordi attached. Exceptionally, we get to see scores of Verdi and Salieri and Puccini’s miserable note (he had a bad right hand). “Tenor Placido Domingo was supposed to come by for 20 minutes, but spent hours studying the music, where Verdi crossed over and changed notes,” says the librarian, who also shows a cat bell in which Verdi asks if anyone might have found his wife’s brooch.
Verdi was a regular guest at the chic Grand Hotel Et De Milan, where our tour guide Leendert Booyens gives his musical explanations. On the first day, Leendert, who has played bassoon for 35 years in various orchestras and music companies, talks about tonight’s symphony concert during a sumptuous High Tea. The following days we hear during the morning coffee with Italian delicacies all about the Verdi opera ‘A masked ball’ (Un ballo in maschera) and the romantic ballet Sylvia or the nymph Diana.
Tour leader and musician Leendert Booyens provides musical explanations in the chic Grand Hotel Et De Milan.
“I like to travel and people, and I like to share my knowledge and experience”, says the always cheerful musician, who with his views adds an extra dimension to the experience. He visually tells how all three composers Schubert (31), Mozart (35) and Mendelssohn (38) were inspired by Italy.
Mendelssohn took a mid-year at the age of 21, following in Goethe’s footsteps. Tonight you will hear his musical postcards in the Italian Symphony. Imagine opening the curtains in the morning and watching the sun shine. ”
That same evening, we also see the sun shining in the artfully braided red-blonde hair of the young female conductor Speranza Scappuci.
While big world stars in Milan’s La Scala are mainly looking for fame and glory, music lovers come for a musical performance of top quality, but also for the magic. The enchantment of the decor in three levels, the beautiful costumes and the impressive horseshoe-shaped hall with six floors of richly decorated boxes. The top two rows are the cheapest. If you are not in front, stand to see something. But the best acoustics are at the top of the ridge. There is also logionism, feared by the opera stars because they shout ‘boo’ if they did not like an aria. Luckily the main sound during our visit was ‘bravo’.
The decor of the horseshoe-shaped hall with its 2800 seats and six floors of richly decorated boxes is enchanting.
An experience in itself is the beautifully dressed audience, who at the entrance and during the breaks like to be admired in the reception room decorated with columns and statues of composers. When we had three different performances in three days, we could see that the audience looks very different at the opera than at the ballet. While the opera audience is quite formally dressed, we see a true fashion show among the hip and younger ballet audience. The super short skirts and extravagant party clothes are captured in countless selfies and complete photo shoots.
“Milan is just a fashion city,” says Julia from Pennsylvania, who is sitting next to me. She studies model management and is accompanied by her fellow students from Ukraine, the UK, Germany and Thailand. “As young people, we do not just go to the ball, you know. We also like opera. “
After three days full of impressions, we say goodbye to Milan with a look at the modern suburbs with offices for major fashion brands and spectacular apartment buildings. But as famous as it is, fashion has still not beaten La Scala.
Regina della Scala
The name Teatro della Scala is reminiscent of the small church that Beatrice della Scala had built in 1360 and which was demolished in 1776 by Maria Theresa from Austria to make way for a new opera house. Beatrice, who was from Verona, was married to Bernabo Visconti, lord of Milan. She was called Regina (Queen) because of her beauty and boldness. Her church was dedicated to Santa Veronica, but was called ‘Santa Maria della Scala’ by the inhabitants of Milan. After her death in 1384, the town mourned for two years.
How to get there
We made the four day long music trip to La Scala with Hannick Reizen. Milan is an hour and a half flight from Schiphol. In addition to the entrance to the opera and the ballet (the symphony concert is optional), we were given a tour of the legendary opera house with several boxes in the old style and access to the Scala Museum with fourteen rooms with costumes and opera props.