Francesco Rapaccioni, Milano, teatro alla Scala, Europa riconosciuta: Un'Orgia di Tecnologia (teatro.org)
Jason Horowitz, A renaissance of sorts for Antonio Salieri (International Herald Tribune, January 5, 2005)
That improbable septuagenarian, Sophia Loren, came in on the arm of Giorgio Armani; the heir to the (extinct) throne of Savoy, Emanuele Filiberto, was on hand to remind everyone where the original sponsorship came from; Silvio Berlusconi just made it in time, sharing his box with the prime ministers of Albania, Bulgaria and Croatia. And the former fascist Mirko Tremaglia, Mr Berlusconi's minister for Italians abroad, was just one of the ministers at La Scala. Mr Tremaglia recently remarked (apropos the Buttiglione "homosexuality is a sin" brouhaha) that "in Europe, the buggers are in a majority."The work that closed the theater was a renovation of the technical equipment and backstage, especially a tower added for greater fly space, and an acoustic reworking of the stage floor. In spite of some opposition in Milan, most people appear to agree that the work was necessary and well done. As you can read in a review of Italian press reactions (Italian media hails La Scala 'triumph', December 8, 2004) from BBC News, the renovation and the new acoustic were hailed by all, but Salieri's opera disappointed. Mimi Murphy's article (A Grand Encore: La Scala lifts the curtain on a technically perfect renovation, December 12, 2004) for TIME Europe Magazine lavished praise on the renovation:
But it was the renovated theater, restored to its 18th century magnificence and technologically catapulted into the 21st century after $81.3 million and 30 months, that received the biggest raves. To improve the acoustics, renovators removed rubble buried under the stalls during a hurried reconstruction after a 1943 Allied bombing, and added a 12-tiered "floating" oak floor to improve resonance. The 17-story-high stage tower features machinery that can handle three complete scene changes, which used to be done by hand. "Our new stage machinery is the most modern in the world. Until last year we needed hours or days to shift scenery," said Muti. "Now you just push a button."In her regular feature (Letter from Milan, January 1, 2005) for Opera Japonica, Silvia Luraghi added some information about the ballet in Salieri's opera, as well as the production's technical failures:
Like many 18th-century operas, L'Europa also featured a ballet, the original music of which is now lost. Conductor Riccardo Muti overcame this problem with the use of other music by Salieri, performed at the end of the first act. This ballet music was among the most interesting parts of the performance, but its length (about 20 minutes) was excessive. Though Luca Ronconi's production was intended to showcase the newly renovated stage's technical capabilities, some of the new machinery was not ready for use, necessitating the manual movement of some parts of Pier Luigi Pizzi’s very heavy sets. Muti conducted with brisk tempi and commitment, and the evening was a major success, though admittedly the applause was more for the house than the performance. La Scala will now remain closed for some months to come while the final stages of renovation work are completed, with the opera season continuing at the Arcimboldi theater until April.You can look through these photographs of the production. From what I have seen, the staging was very sparse and geometric. I could find no explanation anywhere of what is going on with all of those mechanical horses in the photograph shown here, but it looks cool.