MILAN – Riccardo Chailly celebrates 40 years at La Scala next season, which he will open by conducting the Italian opera “Andrea Chenier” starring soprano Anna Netrebko for the traditional Dec. 7 gala season premiere.
The 2017-18 season of 15 operas, including eight new productions, presented on Wednesday highlights the Italian opera, in particular the genres of “verismo” and bel canto, part of the famed Milan opera house’s moves to strengthen its commitment to the Italian repertoire.
“This opera house became famous for the Italian repertoire, but with the exception of Verdi, it has been a little neglected,” general manager Alexander Pereira said. “There was hardly any Puccini, there was hardly any bel canto and no verismo.”
Pereira said he intends at the same time to avoid provincialism by maintaining a steady stream of opera from beyond Italy, including Johan Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus” and Christoph Willibad Gluck’s “Orphee et Eurydice,” both of which will both be performed at La Scala for the first time next season.
Chailly, 64, who became La Scala’s music director in 2015, opens the season with Umberto Giordano’s “Andrea Chenier,” which made its world debut on the same stage in 1896 and has not been performed there since Chailly conducted it in 1985.
Netrebko, one of the world’s most celebrated sopranos, will share the stage with her husband, Yusif Eyvazov.
Chailly said the genre of Italian “verismo,” an often-gritty post-Romantic tradition that many associate with booming tenors, is too often dismissed “with a smile of superiority, with nonchalance, as a lesser genre.”
“There is nothing lesser about it. It is extraordinarily intense, and is very tied to La Scala. It is Milanese opera,” Chailly said.
He will also conduct Gaetano Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale,” in the bel canto tradition that emphasizes beautiful singing, a tradition that will also be on display in Vincenzo Bellini’s “Il Pirata,” conducted by Ricardo Frizza.
Pereira solicited Hungarian composer Gyorgy Kurtag’s first-ever opera, “Fin de partie,” based on the Samuel Beckett one-act play “Endgame.” Completed by the 91-year-old Kurtag two years ago, “it is the most important world premiere next year,” according to Pereira.
La Scala also will reprise Franco Zeffirelli’s famed 1963 production of “Aida,” with scenery by Lila De Nobili, for the director’s 95th birthday.
Beyond opera, Chailly has a full roster of symphonic performances, including of Mahler’s 9th, as he marks his 40th year since picking up the baton at La Scala for the first time. He has conducted 18 operas in that time, with long breaks as commitments took him elsewhere.
“It is the only time in my life, at least so far, that I was offered a steady position after more than 20 years of knowing each other,” Chailly recalled. “In the other four steady jobs that I have had, I was offered a position after only one week. At La Scala, I had to grow day by day in the relationship.”