Milan’s La Scala Lights Up with Verdi’s Don Carlo

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A general view of the La Scala opera house during the season opening of La Scala theatre in Milan, Italy December 7, 2023. REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo

The night was alive with electric energy as Milan’s La Scala opera house heralded the dawn of a new season with a breathtaking rendition of Giuseppe Verdi’s Don Carlo. The three-hour performance, a timeless masterpiece based on a play by German writer Friedrich Schiller, wove a tapestry of drama and intrigue as it delved into the tumultuous relationship between King Philip II of Spain and his son, Don Carlo, both vying for the love of the same woman, Elisabeth of Valois.

Director Lluis Pasqual artfully intertwined the historical backdrop of 16th century Spain with a thought-provoking nod to present-day parallels, infusing the production with a layer of contemporary relevance. “Human beings invented two horrible things: religion and nationalism,” Pasqual mused, adding a depth of meaning to the traditional opera that resonated with the audience.

The grandeur of the opening night drew in Italy’s elite, from business moguls to political figures, making it a highlight on the social calendar. Coinciding with the city’s Feast of St. Ambrose holiday, the occasion was elevated to new heights of grandeur and festivity.

Under the masterful baton of conductor Riccardo Chailly, Verdi’s 1884 composition for La Scala was brought to life with unparalleled expertise. The talented cast imbued the timeless story with passion and emotion, with Italian bass Michele Pertusi commanding the stage as Philip II, Russian soprano Anna Netrebko exuding grace as Elisabeth of Valois, and tenor Francesco Meli captivating the audience as the king’s son.

Chailly, who described Don Carlo as “Verdi’s Holy Bible,” emphasized the work’s immense importance in the composer’s life. The emotional depth and rich storytelling of the opera struck a chord with the audience, transporting them to a world of love, ambition, and political intrigue.

The triumphant evening at La Scala comes on the verge of Italian opera’s recent recognition, as it was honoured by being added to the United Nations’ cultural heritage list, solidifying Italy’s enduring musical legacy. As the curtains closed on the mesmerizing performance, the audience was left in awe of the timeless tale presented with such grandeur and passion, reaffirming La Scala’s status as a beacon of artistic brilliance. The anticipation for the next spectacular production to grace its illustrious stage was palpable, leaving the audience eager for more.

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