The Chorus

By Teatro Alla Scala

“A director of an opera chorus [...] cannot be anything but a Verdi specialist, for the simple reason that Verdi represents the current basis of the repertoire,” wrote Paolo Isotta, critic of the Corriere della Serain 2006.

Chovanchina 2017 - 2018Teatro Alla Scala

Whether playing drunken Streltsy in Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina or Nuremberg’s merry Meistersingers, La Scala's Chorus is frequently lauded by audiences and critics in broad repertoire. Even so, there is nothing like hearing this ensemble perform choruses by Verdi.

I Lombardi Alla Prima CrociataTeatro Alla Scala

Toscanini's ban is overturned

In a 1984 performance of I Lombardi alla prima Crociata conducted by Gianandrea Gavazzeni, the chorus “O Signore, dal tetto natìo” drew waves of feverish applause. The audience wanted more.

Gavazzeni caught the eye of the first violinist, then searched out Giulio Bertola, the Chorus Master, and Artistic Director Cesare Mazzonis in the wings. The conductor waited, then succumbed to pressure. Toscanini’s hallowed ban on encores was overturned.

Nabucco 1986Teatro Alla Scala

Muti’s encore

Riccardo Muti debuted as music director with Nabucco in 1986. As with the opera’s 1842 La Scala premiere, the chorus “Va' pensiero” was followed by a huge roar from the stalls. Muti stood immobile, waiting for it to subside, but the cheers grew louder. He decided to grant the encore.

Requiem in San Marco, 2014Teatro Alla Scala

Verdi's Requiem

As with "Va' pensiero", Verdi’s Messa da Requiem holds a special place in La Scala history. Verdi himself conducted the premiere at Milan's San Marco church in 1874, before performing the work at La Scala days later. In the XX century the Requiem became the distinctive piece of the musical directors of the theatre with the historical interpretations of Arturo Toscanini and Victor de Sabata.

Messa Di RequiemTeatro Alla Scala

In 1964, when the Requiem is still largely unknown in the Soviet Union, Herbert von Karajan conducted the work to an audience of 6,000 at Moscow's Convention Centre.

Messa Di RequiemTeatro Alla Scala

Karajan’s rendition in Milano with Leontyne Price, Fiorenza Cossotto, Luciano Pavarotti and Nicolai Ghiaurov has remained among the most vivid in the memory of the Milanese.

Messa di Requiem 1972 Katia Ricciarelli, Claudio Ruggero Raimondi, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Birgit Finnilae e Carlo CossuttaTeatro Alla Scala

Claudio Abbado made the Requiem a recurring appointment proposing 10 performances in Milan between 1070 and 1985 with the greatest singers of the time including Montserrat Caballé, Katia Ricciarelli and Plácido Domingo.

Claudio Abbado dirige Messa di Requiem 1972Teatro Alla Scala

In 1974 he performed it in a free concert "with speakers and TV screens" in Piazza del Duomo. 40 years later, Riccardo Chailly commemorated the recently deceased Abbado with a performance at La Scala.

1987 Messa da Requiem Schauspielhaus di Berlino Riccardo MutiTeatro Alla Scala

Blocked at Checkpoint Charlie

In 1987, Muti conducted repertoire including the Requiem and Nabucco in East and West Berlin. But a rehearsal in the East was delayed when the instruments and scores failed to turn up. They had been detained at Checkpoint Charlie, where agents checked the scores’ pages, one by one, for hidden messages.

Messa Di RequiemTeatro Alla Scala

Superintendent Carlo Maria Badini sent an ultimatum to the Italian Ministry of Culture: the concert would be cancelled if the situation was not resolved within 30 minutes. The scores arrived in advance of the deadline, accompanied by police cars with flashing lights.
When Muti conducted the Requiem at a packed Notre Dame in 1988, 10,000 gathered to watch on screens outside.

Messa da Requiem 2009 Tel AvivTeatro Alla Scala

in 2009 Daniel Barenboim conducted the Requiem in the Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv on the occasion of the centenary of the city's foundation. The concert risked being cancelled for safety reasons because about 120,000 people had gathered in the park, more than twice as many as expected.

Romano Gandolfi Direttore del CoroTeatro Alla Scala

Chorus through the ages
Expert Chorus Masters -- including Vittore Veneziani (1945-54), Noberto Mola (1954-63), Roberto Benaglio (1963-71) and Romano Gandolfi (1971-83) -- have honed the ensemble’s sound over the years. Following the foundation of the Filarmonica della Scala in 1982, Giulio Bertola (1983-91) recalibrated the Chorus for symphonic repertoire. Roberto Gabbiani’s ensemble (1991-2002) was as at home in contemporary repertoire as traditional opera. Bruno Casoni’s (from 2002) is reliable, passionate and virtuosic.

Carlo Maria Giulini e Vittore VenezianiTeatro Alla Scala

Photo: Vittore Veneziani e Giulini

1986 Lorin Maazel e Giulio Bertola a VancouverTeatro Alla Scala

Photo: Giulio Bertola and Mazeel in Vancouver

1995 Roberto GabbianiTeatro Alla Scala

Photo: Roberto Gabbiani

Filarmonica Della Scala/coro Filarmonico - Sinfonia N. 9 In Re Min. Op. 125Teatro Alla Scala

Photo: Bruno Casoni

La bohème 1952 coro di voci biancheTeatro Alla Scala

The Treble Voices
Street urchins in Carmen, imperial eunuchs in Turandot and a rabble of children in La bohème. These are some of the parts sung by La Scala’s Treble Voice Chorus.

Coro di voci biancheTeatro Alla Scala

Before being fully admitted, the young singers, selected through audition, are trained at the La Scala Academy for two years. Duties include working on recording projects, delivering concerts abroad and performing repertoire ranging from Gregorian chant to contemporary music.

Concerto Riccardo Chailly - Messa Per RossiniTeatro Alla Scala

Chailly premieres a rediscovered Requiem

The Messa per Rossini, conceived in 1869 following Rossini’s death, comprises single movements submitted by Verdi and twelve of “the most distinguished Italian composers” handpicked by the opera veteran and his publisher, Ricordi. Composers Arrigo Boito and Amilcare Ponchielli were deemed too experienced to make the cut.

In the end, the scheduled premiere was cancelled, and the work fell into obscurity. Rediscovered by Casa Ricordi in 1986, it was premiered in Stuttgart two years later.

In 2017, Chailly conducted the Messa’s long awaited Milan premiere, to an audience packed with critics and music scholars. It was, wrote the Corriere della Sera, “an evening that one does not hesitate to call historical”. Decca subsequently released a recording of the performance.

Credits: Story

[Credits: curated by James Imam and the Teatro alla Scala]

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps