MILAN – To prepare for the gala season opener of La Scala Thursday, music director Riccardo Chailly said he had to start nearly from scratch with the orchestra to bring to the stage Umberto Giordano’s opera “Andrea Chernier.”
The season premiere, held each year on the Milan feast day St. Ambrogio, is considered one of the highlights of the European cultural calendar, attracting leaders from culture and politics alike.
Although “Andrea Chernier” is closely tied to La Scala, where it made its debut in 1896, it had fallen out of fashion along with the Italian “verismo” genre of booming tenors that it represents. Chailly, now La Scala’s music director, was the last to conduct it at La Scala in 1985.
Just a handful of musicians knew the opera, so “I had to start the work from nearly the beginning,” Chailly told reporters ahead of the season opener. “It surprised me to have so very few musicians in the orchestra who participated in our last rendition.”
Renown soprano Anna Netrebko, who is appearing in her third gala season opener, also is making her Chernier debut as Maddalena.
“It is not an easy opera. There are lots of rhythmic changes,” she said recently.
She sings opposite her husband, tenor Yusif Eyvazov, who is making his La Scala debut in the title role.