The La Scala Opera House

History of the theatre

The La Scala opera house owns its name to the church of Santa Maria alla Scala which used to stand where the theatre is nowadays.

Its origin dates back to 1776 when a group of wealthy Milanese people insistently asked to the Austrian rulers of Milan to have a new theatre since the old one was destroyed by a fire.

This appeal was upheld by the Empress Maria Theresa, who commissioned to the architect Piermarini the construction of the new theater.

The costs for the construction of the La Scala  were partially covered by the richest people of Milan who owned the boxes of the theatre and that spent huge amount of money to lavishly decorate them.

The official premier of the opera house was held on the 3rd of August 1778 with the work “Europa Riconosciuta” by the composer Antonio Salieri and the librettist Mattia Verazi.

The La Scala soon became the main attraction of the city where the the noblemen and wealthy bourgeois met.

Between 1882 and 1883 the first power plant in continental Europe was built in Milan, behind the Duomo cathedral, and the La Scala theatre was one of the building in the surroundings to benefit of this achievement of technology. On the 26th of December of 1883 the whole theatre was lit with 2880 lamps.

The allied bombing in 1943 severely damaged the theatre. During the night between the 15th and the 16th of August 1943 a bomb dropped by one of the 199 Lancaster departed from England hit the La Scala opera house. The site inspection of the morning after that day showed that only the stage was spared by the devastation. The boxes and the stalls with their excellent decorations and adornments were covered with a rudimentary roof until the end of the conflict when it was possible to begin the renovation work.

On the 11th of May 1946 the grand opening of the theatre was an extraordinary success: the orchestra was led by Arturo Toscanini. On the stage there was Renata Tebaldi, one of the greatest opera singers of our times and most admired rival of Maria Callas.


The season of the La Scala opera house officially starts every year on the 7th of December, the day of the celebration of Saint Ambrogio, the patron Saint of Milan.

It is one of the major events in the city of Milan and for sure the most elegant one. Ladies of the high society wear their fancy gowns to enjoy the premier of the theatre. The list of operas played on the opening includes works by Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini and Wilhelm Richard Wagner.

The current musical director of the La Scala is Riccardo Chailly while the management of the theatre lays in the hands of Alexander Pereira.

The opera house also features a very interesting museum which features original props of the operas and ballets hosted in the La Scala as well as historical musical instruments, original librettos and costumes.