La Scala Inaugurates Season With ‘Lohengrin’December 7th, 2012 11:39 am Associated Press
MILAN (AP) — The famed La Scala opera house inaugurates its 2012-13 season Friday with the Teutonic classic “Lohengrin” as it launches dual bicentennial celebrations of its own Giuseppe Verdi and German icon Richard Wagner.
Daniel Barenboim, La Scala’s music director and a Wagner aficionado, conducts the gala season opener, one of the premier events on the European cultural calendar.
German bass Rene Pape appears as King Heinrich and tenor Jonas Kaufmann as Lohengrin. Evelyn Herlitzius plays Ortrud and German soprano Annette Dasch will sing the role of Elsa after headliner Anja Harteros was forced to cancel due to the flu.
Dasch, who has sung the role at Bayreuth since 2010, was brought in after Harteros’ understudy, who sang Tuesday in a preview performance for the under-30 crowd, also caught the flu, the opera house said in a statement.
The performance on Tuesday was strongly applauded. German director Claus Guth’s nontraditional staging sets the tale in the Victorian era.
The opener will be broadcast live in 600 cinemas around the world, as well as on Italian state television and radio. Large screens have also been placed in the nearby Galleria to allow Milanese to participate in the gala event.
Opera house management has dismissed criticism by Italian media over the decision to launch the season honoring Verdi, who called La Scala home, with a Wagner opera.
Even President Giorgio Napolitano was drawn into the fray after media speculated that he would miss the opening as a personal protest over the Wagner staging. Napolitano denied any snub, calling the polemics “futile” and “pathetic.” He said he had state business to attend in Rome.
Both composers were born in 1813, and La Scala has included seven Verdi productions and six by Wagner in its program this year to honor their shared anniversary.
Verdi gets his season premiere on Jan. 15 with “Falstaff.” Perhaps anticipating the Wagner hostility, La Scala has already announced its 2013-14 gala premiere to be Verdi’s “La Traviata” conducted by Daniele Gatti.
Despite Napolitano’s absence, the government will be well-represented Friday. Premier Mario Monti, a La Scala regular, is due to take a break from the grueling job of reforming Italy’s economy and after Thursday’s criticism of his government by the Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right party. Five ministers also are expected.