Surprising Facts About La Scala

Discover things you never knew about Milan's grand old opera house

By Google Arts & Culture

Concerto Di Canto Leo Nucci - Don CarloTeatro Alla Scala

Over 2000 seats; nearly 250 years of history; two sensational re-openings in 1946 and 2004; countless operatic debuts and launched careers - welcome to the Teatro alla Scala!

It's maybe the most famous opera house in the world, but did you know these key facts about Milan's cultural jewel?

Filarmonica Ricardo Chailly - L'oiseau De FeuTeatro Alla Scala

Its name has an interesting origin

The name 'La Scala' comes from the church of Santa Maria alla Scala, which used to stand on the same site. This church was so called because it was founded, in 1300, by Regina della Scala of the noble della Scala family of Verona.

Legend has it that a sick boy was cured when his mother placed a statue of the Virgin Mary on the landing. It's certainly a lot of climbing to scale the heights of the top-row seats!

Don GiovanniTeatro Alla Scala

The theater was originally lit with thousands of candles

The flames of a thousand candles would've adorned the auditorium and the stage, adding a glistering magic to the evening's atmosphere.

AidaTeatro Alla Scala

It's known amongst performers as a 'baptism of fire'

But the candles aren't the only flames that make the theater famous. La Scala includes seats high up in the balustrades known as 'the loggione'. They were for less wealthy patrons, and were instrumental in expanding opera's popular appeal.

But winning over this section of the audience proved very difficult. Over the years, La Scala became known as a 'baptism of fire', and a successful show there was a great boon. An unsuccesful one meant shame. Even the greatest artists, from Callas to Pavarotti, have been booed by the capricious loggionisti.

Uruguay's 1930 World Cup Final Ball (1930-07-30)National Football Museum

Its stage has been graced by sporting greats

Pavarotti's not the only link between soccer and opera. The 2018/19 Best FIFA Football Awards were held at La Scala.

Leo Messi et al might give La Scala's prima ballerinas a run for their money in terms of fine footwork!

Poker Game (1941) by Gjon MiliLIFE Photo Collection

La Scala's always been a 'high-stakes' venue...

During the 19th century, the foyer of La Scala operated as a bustling casino

Mary Shelley, the famous author of Frankenstein, attended the theatre in 1840 and complained that "horse-dealing to stock-jobbing is carried on in the pit; so that brief and far between are the snatches of melody one can catch".

IdomeneoTeatro Alla Scala

Discover what made La Scala so important here

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