La Scala's French manager leaves theater financially fit as Meloni government turns to Italians

MILAN — The general manager of Milan’s famed Teatro alla Scala on Tuesday bade a bittersweet farewell to the theater during the presentation of 2024-25 season, saying, “I would have been happy to continue.”

Dominique Meyer will finish up his contract, which runs out at the end of February, but Italy’s far-right-led government limited him to one term as it seeks to restore landmark cultural institutions to Italians. Meyer, a Frenchman, was the third straight foreigner to run Italy’s premiere opera house.

The theater’s new general manager is Fortunato Ortombina, who will meet Milan’s mayor on Wednesday in preparation to step into the new role in September. Ortombina arrives from Venice’s La Fenice theater, and will work alongside Meyer for the first months.

Meyer’s last gala premiere will be Verdi’s “The Force of Destiny,’’ starring Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kaufmann on Dec. 7. The new season also features a world premiere of “In the Name of the Rose,’’ a new opera by Francesco Filidei based on Umberto Eco’s novel commissioned by La Scala and the Paris Opera. It will be performed in Italian in Milan and Genoa, and in French in Paris.

“The period necessary to bring to life a new opera is longer than the mandate of a theater director,’’ Meyer told a news conference, adding pointedly, “A little stability doesn’t hurt.”

Meyer has been invited to stay on until August 2025, when he turns 70, in keeping with a new rule set by Premier Giorgia Meloni’s government that opera house directors must retire at 70. He has not said if he would accept the extension, but his news conference had all the trappings of a farewell, including two rows of institutional well-wishers like Italy’s senator-for-life Liliana Segre, who started going to La Scala as a girl, and union representatives.

Meyer, who took over in March 2020 as the pandemic shut theaters, noted that he had increased the contributions of sponsors to 38 million euros ($41 million) last year, above pre-pandemic levels. He said he had pushed up the daily box office take by 22% to 236,000 euros, largely by eliminating last-minute discounted tickets that he said “poisoned” the market.

He is leaving La Scala with 132.7 million euros in cash, compared with 109 million euros in 2018.

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