Russian opera Boris Godunov will open next season at La Scala in Milan

MILAN – In a move aimed at separating politics from culture, Milan’s famed Teatro alla Scala on Monday announced the celebration of next season’s gala premiere of Russian opera ‘Boris Godunov’.

La Scala Milan’s 2022-23 calendar set well in advance Russia’s invasion of Ukrainealso marks the premiere of another Russian opera at the Milan Opera House, Antonín Dvořák’s “Rusalka”, and includes a host of Russian stars singing roles in the Russian composition as well as other titles.

“We hope that we will have a St. Ambrosius (feast day) where peace is also celebrated,” said Mayor Giuseppe Sala, chairman of La Scala, calling Modest Mussorgsky’s opera “a masterpiece”. He referred to the feast day of Milan’s patron saint on December 7, when each year La Scala hosts its gala season opening, one of the most anticipated events on the European cultural calendar.


Director General Dominique Meyer stressed that the selection was made two to three years ago, in line with the opera world’s practice of drafting calendars and booking stars years in advance.

The move comes months after Milan’s La Scala became one of the first opera houses to ban Russian conductors Valery Gergiev after failing to respond to her appeal to denounce the war.

The management of the opera house quickly separated Gergiev from other Russian artists who will be performing in Milan, noting that his position as director general and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg brings him close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We looked at him like a politician. The others, no. He’s almost culture minister. It’s a different case,” Meyer said.

“Boris Godunov”, whom La Scala in Milan calls “a disturbing fresco about the brutality and loneliness of power”, opened the 1979/80 season under the baton of Claudio Abbado.


Russian bassist Ildar Abdrazakov, who sang in last year’s season premiere, will sing the title role in “Boris Godunov,” while Russian tenor Dmitry Korchak will lead “Rusalka.”

Principal Conductor and Musical Director Riccardo Chailly, who assisted Abbado’s 1979 premiere of Boris Godunov, said he had long been pushing for more Russian music on the calendar at La Scala, which, as the first opera house in the poetry’s birthplace, is historically heavily influenced by Italian repertoire Theatre. Giuseppe Verdi is by far the composer most represented on December 7th.

“It would be serious to punish the artistic aspect for the tragedy that we all know is happening in Ukraine,” Chailly said. “It seems necessary to me, given what we have unfortunately been living for more than 90 days, (to say) that great music can live independently as it should.

“It’s important to distinguish the two things. Earn those who deserve it and bring masterpieces back to life completely independent of events.”


The 14 operas in the calendar include “Lucia di Lammermoor” with the American soprano Lisette Oropesa in the title role alongside Juan Diego Flórez. The Donizetti Opera was supposed to open the 2020-21 season but was delayed due to pandemic restrictions.

La Scala also revisits Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, which opened the 2017/18 season, celebrates the 100th birthday of the late stage and film director Franco Zeffirelli with his staging of La Boheme and premieres Leonardo Vinci’s Neapolitan opera. Li Zite ‘Ngalera’ as part of a project to revitalize Italian Baroque opera.

Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, who drew rave reviews at La Scala in Milan last week, will take turns singing four dates of Verdi’s Macbeth with Belarusian mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Russian opera Boris Godunov will open next season at La Scala in Milan

Sarah Y. Kim

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