The traditional gala celebrating the opening of the La Scala opera season is upon us. Have you bagged a seat, or a box but know nothing about opera? Here are a few facts that will impress whoever you get chatting with during the interval.
One of the biggest traditions which link opera to the city of Milan is the grand gala opening of La Scala which each year falls on the city’s Patron Saint Day, the 7th December. This year, La Scala opens with a Richard Wagner oeuvre Lohengrin. This Wagner piece is highly acclaimed like many more popular operas such as La Traviata and The Marriage of Figaro, but perhaps less known within the popular domain. So you’re going to La Scala, but no nothing of Lohengrin? Fear not, Swide to the rescue with a few interesting facts that will thrill whoever you get chatting to.
One of the most notable arias of the opera is the Bridal Chorus, Treulich Geführt, arranged as “here comes the bride”, the popular bridal march used in western wedding ceremonies.
The first performance in Italy took place at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna on 1st November 1871 in an Italian translation by operatic baritone Salvatore Marchesi. It was notably the first performance of any Wagner opera in Italy. Angelo Mariani conducted the performance, which starred Italo Campanini as Lohengrin, Bianca Blume as Elsa, Maria Löwe Destin as Ortrud, Pietro Silenzi as Telramund, and Giuseppe Galvani as Heinrich der Vogler. This was the first rendition of Wagner on Italian soil.
Wagner’s first performance in Italy was actually a contentious affair. Angelo Mariani and Giovannina Lucca plotted to bring this German opera onto the Italian stages to hurt and annoy Verdi as a result of personal vendettas. Perhaps unhappy about Verdi’s hegemony of the Italian operatic scene and in response of him being the catalyst for Mariani being spurred by his lover, the duo chose to look beyond the Alps for the next big thing. Verdi attended a replica of Lohengrin in bologna to see what all the fuss was about and noted many negative comments on his libretto, which has survived to this day.
Verdi, perhaps feeling unthreatened, or simply out of respect for a fellow operatic musician, went back on his word upon Wagner’s death and wrote an open letter praising the talent of his defunct arch enemy.
And now, armed with an introduction to the opera and a few interesting snippets of information, you are all set to enjoy the evening and not sweat at being labelled a neophyte.