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The Teatro alla Scala was founded, under the auspices of the Empress Maria
Theresa of Austria, to replace the Royal Ducal Theatre, which was destroyed by
fire on 26 February 1776 and had until then been the home of opera in Milan.
Designed by the great neoclassical architect Giuseppe Piermarini, La Scala
opened on 3 August 1778 with Antonio Salieri's opera L'Europa riconosciuta, to a
libretto by Mattia Verazi. The early period of the theatre's artistic history is
linked to the tradition of "Neapolitan" opera buffa, whose leading exponents
were Giovanni Paisiello and Domenico Cimarosa.
Among the numerous operas performed may be mentioned La frascatana, Il barbiere
di Siviglia and Nina pazza per amore by Paisiello, L'italiana in Londra and Il
matrimonio segreto by Cimarosa. With the advent of Rossini in 1812 (La pietra
del paragone), the Teatro alla Scala was to become the appointed place of
Italian opera seria: of its history dating back more than a century and of its
subsequent tradition up till the present.
The period between the two wars witnessed a succession of appearances at the
Scala by the great artists of the time, among whom were Feodor Scialiapin, Magda
Olivero, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, Titta Ruffo, Gino Bechi, Beniamino Gigli, Mafalda
Favero, Toti dal Monte, Gilda dalla Rizza and Aurelio Pertile.
In 1943 La Scala was severely damaged by bombing. Reopened on 11 May 1946, with
a historic concert conducted by Toscanini, the theatre rapidly returned, under
the management of Antonio Ghiringhelli, to its highest levels of production and
At the end of the season 2001, La Scala, which was designed by Piermarini, will
undergo a major conservation work, which will include a complete overhaul of the
technical layout of the stage. During the restoration, the artistic activity
will take place in the Teatro degli Arcimboldi, the newly constructed theatre
located in the abandoned Pirelli-Bicocca industrial plant.
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