We decided some while ago that if we were going to go to Milan we would only go if we could get tickets to the Opera. Fortuna arranged for La Scala to stage one of Pat’s favourite operas (La Bohème) a couple of days after her birthday and so, having noted that a possible date for a visit had been chosen by a Goddess, we assumed that she would also fix it for us to get tickets at one of the most popular opera houses in the world.
Online booking for performances on the La Scala website usually opens at 9 a.m. Italian time two months before the performance date and by logging in exactly at the appointed time, (even though we were on holiday in Cornwall) we were able to buy two very expensive (about £100 each plus a large booking fee) tickets for that season’s premiere of La Bohème.
The process of buying online was reasonably straightforward although we had practised before hand by buying tickets to other performances i.e. logging in, selecting tickets, navigating ones way through the payment system and dropping out right at the last moment before the final “confirm” button.
We decided to let the booking system offer us “best available tickets” and we got Box 18 level 3 seats 5 and 6. This means seats at the back of the box in the third row just to the left of the large central box in the photograph above.
La Scala is known for its bad sight lines from most boxes and their website helpfully contains “what you can see of the stage from your box” pictures. Box 18 and the ones above and below it either side of the Presidential Box are about as good as you are going to get unless you are sitting in the stalls and a combination of clicking the “best seats available” button on the booking website together with being there very early seems to have worked for us.
The actual view from the front of our box was as in the above photograph.
and this was the view from the back left hand side of the box. The views of the stage from the side boxes get progressively worse as the box gets closer to the stage and the view also depends on where your seat is in the box.
Mrs Harvey on her seat in her box
The boxes themselves are plush and narrow and a little airless when both doors are closed. The back row sit on high stools and can rest against the rear wall, the middle row have slightly lower stools but nothing to lean back against and the front row (the best seats)
have chairs with backs. They are also the only seats from which you can easily see the surtitle screens (available in the language of the opera and English).
And about six weeks after booking, our tickets
arrived through the post having been in the Italian postal system for only 5 days.
We did not know at the time of booking that the word Premiere had a special meaning as far as La Scala was concerned – men are expected to “be appropriately attired in a dark suit” and ladies are expected to look gorgeous! There are a lot of queries on the web about the dress code at La Scala and very little firm and definitive advice. The best advice we received was that unless you are seated in the very cheap seats up in the gods, the only night you are expected to wear a Dinner Jacket is December 7th, for a premiere you should dress up and for other performances you should look smart.
The standard of dress is shown in these photographs and we saw only a couple of
people who had not dressed up and they did look very much out of place. There were two 30 minute intervals during which most people went into the salon (shown above) for a glass of Prosecco.
The La Scala web site describes the opera as: “The impoverished yet warm-hearted artists of La bohème return once more to La Scala with their moving and hopeful duets of love, in the chilly Parisian garret where Mimì will die to savour again one last memory of happiness past.
Franco Zeffirelli’s staging of Puccini’s best-loved opera continues to generate surprise and rapturous applause. Touring the world since 1963, it is incontestably the most frequently performed production in the history of La Scala, under the batons of the greatest orchestral conductors.
Fresh from his La Scala debut in the 2009/2010 season in L’occasione fa il ladro, the young and talented Daniele Rustioni conducts a cast that includes two great voices, Anna Netrebko and Angela Gheorghiu, as Mimì. The role of Rodolfo is shared by Piotr Beczala and Vittorio Grigolo, with Fabio Capitanucci as Marcello.
The programme for the performance is expensive and weighs as much as a heavy
paperback. It contained a lot of information about the Opera House and La Boheme and only a few adverts which makes a change from the programmes we seem to get in the UK today.
Although the published rules for the Opera House say “no cameras” this seems to be universally ignored other than that no one took photographs during the performance.
These pictures are taken from the La Scala website and show the quality of the stage settings by Franco Zeffirelli. Act 2 was
We also went around the La Scala Museum a
couple of days later. The tickets are works of art in themselves and show how La Scala looked in the mid 1800s. Whilst the museum was full of operatic memorabilia, the best bit for me was being able to stand in a box and watch part of an on-stage rehearsal for the ballet Raymonda which is to be performed in October.