La Scala Museo [Milano]

Teatro alla Scala di Milano
Largo Ghiringhelli 1, Piazza Scala 20121 Milano

The eight room of the museum is the room dedicated to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Lodovico Pogliaghi and Adolf Hohenstein depicted the final hours of Verdi, who passed away on 27th January 1901. Then there are the three generations of the Ricordi family who had published the composer’s work: Giovanni, Tito and his son Giulio. It was Giovanni who founded the firm and it was he who brought the workshop to the porticoes of via Filodrammatici and the offices to the rooms now occupied by our museum.

On the same wall is the portrait of Edoardo Sonzogno. Ample space is dedicated to the long line of stars: Rosina Storchio, Claudio Muzio, Francesco Tamagno, Enrico Caruso, Aureliano Pertile, Tancredi Pasero, Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Mario Del Monaco, Franco Corelli and Leyla Gencer. Then there is a tribute to Rudolf Nureyev and one to Giorgio Strehler. The large showcase in the centre of the room contains numerous mementos and batons belonging to conductors, as well as the anastatic copy of the score of Verdi’s Requiem – the original is preserved in our vaults.

Giacomo Puccini is portrayed here in a work by Arturo Rietti, dated 1906. Puccini’s last opera, Turandot, was unfinished but was staged at La Scala on 25th April 1926. One of the authors of the libretto was the same Renato Simoni who donated his library to the museum and which can be visited on the floor above. Rietti also painted Arturo Toscanini. The great conductor came to La Scala in 1887 as a cellist. Four years later, he returned as the conductor of four magnificent concerts. In 1898 is was called upon to open the season with Wagner’s Mastersingers of Nuremburg. The public grew to adore him. He preached and practised total fidelity to the authors. He created a new way of listening to and performing opera, refusing to yield to the whims of the singers, and giving substantial importance to set design. He left Italy and went into voluntary exile in 1929 in protest against the Fascist regime. La Scala was rebuilt after the war and in 1946, greeted by public acclaim, he returned to the theatre. (


Leyla Gencer (born Istanbul 10th October 1928 – died Milan 10th May 2008) was a Turkish soprano who had the misfortune to emerge at a historic time when singing phenomena like Renata Tebaldi and Maria Callas were rising stars.

But, despite being relegated to second billing or even understudy status (ready to replace whomever was in the title role only in case of incapacity, like for example at La Scala in 1958, the year in which Gencer was ready to take the place of Maria Callas in Anne Boleyn but did not even sing a note), she still had an extraordinary career. Before Montserrat Caballé, Sutherland or Sills, she was a promoter of the “Donizetti Renaissance” which rediscovered operas from a forgotten period and which have since re-entered the repertoire of many theatres. The interesting thing is that she became famous without the support of any record label or publicity, but simply due to incredible word-of-mouth and the adoration that her fans harboured for her. It was actually for this reason that she was nick-named “the pirate’s fiancée”, as there were no official recordings of her, only live “pirated” ones, which were enough to pass on the delicacy of her famous pianissimo and the force and passion of her performances.

Even when she had given up singing, she continued to attend performances at La Scala, and way up there in the gallery her faithful fans would wait to see her enter the theatre, happy to have their “Queen” back in the place where she had so often played the lead role. It was not uncommon to see furious discussions break out during the interval where fans would try again and again to convince people of the supremacy of their beloved star. When Riccardo Muti decided to fund La Scala Academy in 1997, he offered Leyla Gencer the prestigious role of Artistic Director of the new institution, a position she held until 2008.

A few months before her death, she decided to donate this portrait to the Museum along with some of her splendid costume jewelry.

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By Violetta Urmana