Giordano’s masterpiece returns to La Scala for the Opening of the 2017/2018 Season in a production staged by Mario Martone with sets by Margherita Palli and costumes by Ursula Patzak.
The title role is played by Yusif Eyvazov, Anna Netrebko is Maddalena di Coigny, and Luca Salsi plays Gérard. The Première is dedicated to Victor de Sabata on the fiftieth anniversary of his death.
Once again this year, the Première will be broadcast live on RAI 1 and in cinemas around the world.
The 2017/2018 Season at Teatro alla Scala opens on 7 December at 6 pm with Andrea Chénier by Umberto Giordano on the libretto by Luigi Illica, conducted by Maestro Riccardo Chailly and directed by Mario Martone. The scenery is by Margherita Palli, costumes by Ursula Patzak, lighting by Pasquale Mari, and Daniela Schiavone choreographs. The cast stars Yusif Eyvazov in the lead, Anna Netrebko as Maddalena di Coigny, Luca Salsi as Gérard, Annalisa Stroppa as Mulatta Bersi and Mariana Pentcheva as the Countess of Coigny.
The Opening Night is dedicated to the memory of Victor de Sabata on the fiftieth anniversary of his death.
With Andrea Chénier the spotlights of 7 December will be trained on an opus of the so-called Verismo repertoire: the sole precedent dates back to 1963, when Gianandrea Gavazzeni conducted L’amico Fritz and Cavalleria rusticana to mark the centenary of Mascagni. And this Cavalleria rusticana, together with Pagliacci, was the only title remaining in the repertoire of La Scala. Nowadays, under the aegis of Maestro Chailly and Superintendent Pereira, the Theatre has embarked on a comprehensive cultural project aimed at recovering and valorizing this heritage: this is shown by the revivals of La cena delle beffe also by Giordano (conducted by Carlo Rizzi with the splendid staging and sets of Mario Martone and Margherita Palli), and Francesca da Rimini by Zandonai, which will be presented next April in a new production by David Pountney conducted by Fabio Luisi.
The first-ever performance of Andrea Chénier, the fourth opera by the then twenty-nine-year-old Umberto Giordano, was held at La Scala on 28 March 1896 under the baton of Rodolfo Ferrari, and it was a great success that resounded overseas, too: just a year after its Première, on 5 February 1897, it was performed in German for eight evenings in the Hamburg Stadttheater, conducted by Gustav Mahler. Struck by the opus, Mahler defined it “one of the new works of the greatest effect”, and he tried to have it performed in Vienna once he had been made director of the Hofoper, encountering financial and organizational problems that led him to change the programme to Fedora. Then again, it was those same experts of the publisher Sonzogno that at first had deemed the work “unperformable”.
For the opera to be consacrated at La Scala, Giordano had collaborated with Luigi Illica, Puccini’s librettist, who was familiar with libertarian passions as he had in his youth been a member of a Garibaldi brigade, creating a masterpiece of dramatic efficacy and musical thrust. To keep in touch with his librettist, Giordano sought lodgings in the building where he lived, at no, 39, Via Bramante, and had to settle for sleeping among headstones and funerary monuments in a sort of storeroom. The fruit of so much effort was the quintessential heroic melodrama, which on stage, if truth be told, is often spurred towards vocal athletics that end up fuelling the inevitable quarrels among the critics. Riccardo Chailly recalls a conversation in which the venerable Maria Caniglia, star of the historic recording with Gigli, pointed out to him some Belcanto legacies in the score.
Beyond fashions and the various positions adopted by critics, one person who has always believed in the value of Andrea Chénier is Maestro Riccardo Chailly, who recorded it for Decca in 1982 with Luciano Pavarotti, Montserrat Caballé and Leo Nucci. And its last production at La Scala, during the 1982/83 Season, was conducted by the Theatre’s current musical director, starring José Carreras, Anna Tomowa-Sintow and Piero Cappuccilli. Lamberto Puggelli’s staging was then revived in 1985, also conducted by Chailly.
He made his debut at La Scala in 1978 with Verdi’s I masnadieri: hence the performances of Andrea Chénier will celebrate 40 years of the Maestro’s activity at La Scala, during the course of which he has conducted operas by Rossini, Verdi, Puccini, Prokofiev and Bartók. He opened the 2006/2007 Season with Aida, the 2015/2016 Season with Giovanna d’Arco and the 2016/2017 Season with Madame Butterfly. In the years to come, his commitment to the Milanese Theatre will focus on the Italian repertoire in accordance with a cultural project aimed at valorizing its richness and complexity, from Belcanto to Verismo. Also continuing is the cycle of operas by Puccini that began in May 2015 with Turandot, the opening event of Expo, and continued in May 2016 with La fanciulla del West. Particular attention is paid to the operas that were presented at La Scala as World Premières: this is the case of La gazza ladra, which returned to La Scala directed by Gabriele Salvatores 200 years after its Première, and also Andrea Chénier. Maestro Chailly has intensified his activity with the La Scala Orchestra and created an ever-closer artistic bond with the musicians: in 2017 he conducted the Philharmonic for the second summer running on a successful tour of several European venues including the Lucerne Festival, its debut at the Proms and at the Edinburgh Festival, and a return to the Berlin Philharmonie. After the Opening Night of the Philharmonic Season at La Scala on 6 November, Maestro Chailly will take to the podium for the second concert of the Theatre’s Symphonic Season with Messa per Rossini – a collective tribute by Italian composers to Rossini on the first anniversary of his death – which has never before been performed at La Scala.
A cinema and theatre director, Mario Martone has had a felicitous relationship with La Scala and with Verismo, too. He made his debut in 2011 with the quintessential Verismo pairing, Pagliacci and Cavalleria rusticana conducted by Daniel Harding: a successful production that has been revived several times over the years. That was followed by two Verdi titles: Luisa Miller conducted by Gianandrea Noseda in 2012 and Oberto Conte di San Bonifacio conducted by Riccardo Frizza in 2013. In 2016 Martone teamed up with Margherita Palli for La cena delle beffe by Giordano: an original and highly capable outfit was born, which moved the tale to Little Italy, albeit respecting its dramaturgical nodes. But interest is aroused in the presence of a director of the calibre of Martone for Andrea Chénier not only for his efforts in musical theatre: the reflection on the hopes and delusions, generosity and betrayals of the revolution through the cinematic fresco Noi credevamo (2010, winner of the David di Donatello) which relates the Mazzini-like ardour of a group of kids from Cilento from the 1820s to the Unification, as well as the more recent theatre direction of La morte di Danton by Büchner (Teatro Stabile, Turin, 2016, and then toured around major Italian theatres). And the closely related themes of youth and revolution also return in Martone’s upcoming film, Capri-Batterie, set in the communist intellectual circles that animated the island during the Great War.
For Andrea Chénier, Martone will keep the revolutionary setting fully intact, though remaining conscious of some anachronisms introduced by Giordano and Illica themselves, focussing on the psychological identification of the characters and emphasizing the passage of time in the various acts. The show will have only one interval and scene changes will be on view to allow the action to move seamlessly from the first to the second act and from the third to the fourth without interruption. Margherita Palli’s sets describe the political transformation by shifting from lavish Louis XV to austere and minimalist architectural structures, not without passing references to Boullée and Ledoux and to the neoclassical utopianism of the late 18th century.
Margherita Palli is a landmark for Italian set design. Her name is closely associated with that of Luca Ronconi, with whom she worked at La Scala on Donnerstag aus Licht (1981), Samstag aus Licht (1984), Oberon (1989), Lodoïska (1991), La damnation de Faust (1995), Tosca (1997), Ariadne auf Naxos (2000), Il Trittico (2008), and L’affare Makropoulos (2009). This is her second 7 December First Night after La vestale, although she worked with Mario Martone on La cena delle beffe in 2015. At La Scala she also curated the Ansaldo exhibition on Luca Ronconi in 2015 and the Maria Callas exhibition currently running in the Museum.
Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 1977, having abandoned the Faculty of Engineering, Yusif Eyvazov studied singing at the local College of Music, but in 1997 he moved to Milan to complete his studies. His first international success came in 2010 when he sang Cavaradossi in Tosca at the Bolshoi. In 2013 he played Othello at the Ravenna Festival directed by Cristina Muti; immediately afterwards Riccardo Muti chose him as Des Grieux for the new production of Manon Lescaut at the Rome Opera with Anna Netrebko in 2014. It was a breakthrough, and the beginning of a love story: the two artists were married in Vienna in 2015. Among the roles Eyvazov has covered, particularly worthy of note are Des Grieux (at the Salzburg Festival and at the Bolshoi), Canio in Pagliacci, Calaf in Turandot (at the Metropolitan, the Mariinsky and the Vienna Staatsoper with Dudamel), Radamès in Aida (at the Paris Opéra, at the Arena in Verona and in 2017 at the Salzburg Festival with Muti alternating with Francesco Meli), Manrico in Il trovatore (Unter den Linden with Barenboim, Mariinsky with Gergiev), and Maurizio in Adriana Lecouvreur (Mariinsky with Gergiev). In preparation for his debut at La Scala, Eyazov debuted as Chénier in Prague in January 2017. Forthcoming commitments include Don Carlo in Moscow, Macbeth in London with Pappano, Tosca in Berlin, Il trovatore in Paris, and Adriana in Baden-Baden.
On this her third Opening Night at La Scala, Anna Netrebko is now very much at home on the Piermarini stage. She made her La Scala debut in 1998 in a Philharmonic concert conducted by Valery Gergiev; Gergiev also conducted her two years later Prokofiev’s War and Peace. Then she returned as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni conducted by Daniel Barenboim on 7 December 2011, as Mimì in La Bohème conducted by Daniele Rustioni in 2012, Giovanna d’Arco for the 7 December 2015 conducted by Riccardo Chailly, and as Violetta in La traviata conducted by Nello Santi in 2017. Universally acknowledged as an outstanding soprano of our times, she has interpreted a vast repertoire in all the theatres of the world with the most prestigious conductors and directors. Ever closer to the Verismo repertoire, she achieved great personal success with Aida conducted by Riccardo Muti in Salzburg last summer. Her upcoming performances include Tosca at the Metropolitan and in Munich, La traviata in Paris, Macbeth in London and Adriana in Baden-Baden.
There is great anticipation for Gérard by Luca Salsi, who has already triumphed in this role in Munich and in Paris. Having appeared at La Scala in some of the performances of I due Foscari conducted by Michele Mariotti, the baritone from Parma (born in San Secondo) quickly became one of the most highly acclaimed on the international scene. He has taken on the cornerstones of the Verdi repertoire with Riccardo Muti (Ernani, Nabucco and I due Foscari in Rome, Macbeth in Chicago and Stockholm, and Ernani and Aida in Salzburg). He recently performed Rigoletto in Amsterdam directed by Damiano Michieletto and he debuted in Tosca at the Rome Opera. Worthy of note among his impending commitments are three consecutive productions at the Metropolitan: Il trovatore, Lucia di Lammermoor and Luisa Miller, as well as Un ballo in maschera in Berlin and Don Carlo in Bologna.
Having studied piano and debuted in Salzburg in 2010 with Riccardo Muti, these days Annalisa Stroppa is a regular feature on the programmes of major theatres: we remember her as Cherubino in I due Figaro conducted by Muti in Salzburg and Madrid, and as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia in Rome, Berlin and Tel Aviv. She made her debut at the Paris Opéra as Suzuki and at the Vienna Staatsoper as Dorabella. At La Scala she has played Emilia in Rossini’s Otello and Maddalena in Rigoletto, but was most acclaimed for her role as Suzuki in Madama Butterfly conducted by Riccardo Chailly last 7 December, before returning as Fenena in Nabucco under the baton of Nello Santi in October.
The First Night on RAI
On 7 December 2016 the First Night live broadcast of Madama Butterfly on RAI 1 broke all listenership records for lyric opera on Italian television with an average of 2,600,000 viewers, corresponding to 13.48% of the average share. The decision by the RAI to broadcast the La Scala Opening Night live on the first channel has also been confirmed for 2017, continuing a collaboration that has been running for more than 40 years; the cameras of the RAI first introduced Italians to the First Night at La Scala on 7 December 1976 for Verdi’s Otello conducted by Carlos Kleiber and directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Since then, the RAI and Teatro alla Scala have collaborated to make Italians ever more appreciative of the extraordinary heritage of melodrama. Like every year, the RAI will also organize screenings in San Vittore Prison, in several Italian theatres, and in cinemas around the world.
The First Night broadcast
To mark the occasion of the feast of Sant’Ambrogio 2017, the schedule of preparatory activities for the First Night at La Scala returns. Sponsored by the Municipality of Milan and Edison together with Teatro alla Scala, the programme will, as usual, be announced during a press conference in November.
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