November 25, 2020 / 1:01 PM / 2 months ago

Milan's La Scala opts for TV gala as virus cancels season debut

MILAN (Reuters) - Milan’s La Scala will broadcast a music and dance gala from its empty auditorium next month after it was forced to abandon its traditional December opening with an opera for the first time since World War Two due to the pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: Visitors wearing face masks look on as Italy's La Scala opera house reopens to the public for the first time since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, with new social distancing and hygiene rules, in Milan, Italy, June 21, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo/File Photo

Its usual new season opening, a highlight of Italy’s cultural calendar, will be replaced on Dec. 7 by a show of arias and duets, starring opera and ballet stars from across the world, including tenor Placido Domingo.

Some pieces will be live, while others pre-recorded due to the difficulty for some to travel.

“I hope ... to tell the world that we are in a difficult moment but still able to create the emotion of opera,” Artistic Director Dominique Meyer said during a webcast press conference.

Italy shut theatres and concert halls in October to contain the second wave of infections. La Scala re-opened in July after being shut for four months during Italy’s first wave of COVID-19.

The latest restrictions are due to stay in place until at least Dec. 3 and while some may be relaxed ahead of the holiday season, cultural activities are likely to remain constrained.

It is still unclear how La Scala will stage its planned new season, which was due to open with Gaetano Donizetti’s opera ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’. The TV gala will feature arias by composers including Giuseppe Verdi, Gioachino Rossini and Richard Wagner.

Meyer said while the choice to keep the opera house shut for the opening night was difficult, it was necessary, also to protect workers.

Last month dozens of La Scala singers and musicians tested positive for the virus, forcing all the members of the chorus into quarantine along with members of the orchestra.

    Milan is in the northern Lombardy region, Italy’s hardest hit area, plagued with 20,850 deaths since the pandemic begun or 40% of the country’s total.

La Scala’s opening nights are usually televised by state broadcaster RAI. Last year a peformance of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca attracted almost 3 million viewers.

Editing by Agnieszka Flak and Alexandra Hudson

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