“Things have changed from a few years ago, when there was a real pause, awaiting Dec. 7,” Stefania Cavallin, one of the theater’s three chief stage designers, said in an interview at the theater this month. “But then we began with a small fall season that became increasingly important. Now it’s a continuous cycle.”
Her production team — as well as other employees of La Scala — still gets a three-week break in August, she said. “But we already prepare the work that will go onstage when the theater reopens” in September, she added.
Nowadays, La Scala’s playbill has grown from the eight or nine operas staged in a typical season 20 years ago to around 15, of which nine or 10 are new or co-productions. Of the six ballets, about half are new, said Franco Malgrande, La Scala’s stage engineer. “It’s a very tight production,” and that translates into “a considerably greater offer for the public.”
Mr. Malgrande added that even when the season ended, around the third week of July, “it doesn’t mean our activity stops.” The rare period when the stage is free of sets, he added, “is when all the maintenance takes place, of the machinery and of the stage mechanics,” a round-the-clock endeavor because of the shorter summer break. Preparations then begin for the fall operas, usually the theater’s own productions (in September and October, Verdi’s “Rigoletto” and Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore.”)
La Scala did not become Italy’s most famed theater overnight. It worked for it.
In the 1950s, Mr. Malgrande said, it built its own external workshops for costume and set design and construction (previously, because they were mostly painted backdrops, opera sets were created in a large hall above the main auditorium). Now, the workshops occupy a 20,000-square-meter facility (about 215,000 square feet), the former Ansaldo steel plants in what was once an industrial area of Milan, and employ about 150 artisans.