Founded by Riccardo Muti in 1997 under the artistic direction of Leyla Gencer, the La Scala Opera Academy carries forward the legacy of the “Cadetti della Scala” school instituted in 1950 by Arturo Toscanini to preserve and transmit the Italian operatic tradition to the new generations.
The Academy prepares young opera singers who have a solid background in voice and music for their professional career, honing their technical and interpretive skills in a two-year program under the guidance of artists with a flair for transmitting their stage abilities.
The lead instructor is Luciana D’Intino, specialized in vocal and interpretive technique. She is joined for the 2021-2023 biennium by Gregory Kunde and Pietro Spagnoli who will the study of the repertoire. For role study, the teachers will be Beatrice Benzi, Nelson Guido Calzi, Michele D’Elia, Umberto Finazzi, Jeong Un Kim, Vincenzo Scalera, Paolo Spadaro Munitto, James Vaughan, and for stage arts the stage director Marina Bianchi.
Daily study, which includes Italian language teaching for non-native speakers, is interwoven with frequent performances by the soloists in productions on the Teatro alla Scala season program, alongside world class singers, orchestra conductors, and stage directors.
Master classes held by such luminaries as Luis Alva, Marcelo Álvarez, Teresa Berganza, Renato Bruson, Enzo Dara, Juan Diego Flórez, Mirella Freni, Gregory Kunde, Christa Ludwig, Giorgio Merighi, Leo Nucci, Lubica Orgonasova, Ruggero Raimondi, Renata Scotto, Luciana Serra and Shirley Verrett further enrich the educational experience.
An important aspect of the course since the first year it was offered, students are given numerous opportunities to perform on stage before an audience in Italy and abroad in an intensive program of concerts and operas.
Among the opera titles and venues featuring La Scala Academy soloists, we mention Giulio Sabino by Sarti at Teatro Alighieri of Ravenna (1999), Cecchina, o sia la buona figliola by Piccinni at Teatro Franco Parenti of Milan (1999), at Teatro Fraschini of Pavia (1999), and at Teatro Piccinni of Bari (2000), Nina, o sia la pazza per amore by Paisiello at Teatro Strehler in Milan (1999), Parisina at Teatro Donizetti of Bergamo (2004), Un giorno di regno (2012) and Cenerentola (2016) al Teatro Filarmonico of Verona, Falstaff at Teatro Verdi in Busseto (2013), Il barbiere di Siviglia on tour in 2013 in Italy (Teatro Valli of Reggio Emilia and Teatro Comunale of Modena) and abroad (at the Kaliningrad Opera House), Falstaff, at the Royal Opera House of Muscat, Oman (2015), and Così fan tutte at Teatro Carlo Felice of Genoa (2017).
Another major pillar in the Academy program is the yearly Academy Project, an opera on the Teatro alla Scala season program entrusted entirely to La Scala Academy students instituted in the year 2000.
The Project was inaugurated with La bohème by Puccini (2000) and continued with other eminent titles: Un giorno di regno (2001) and Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio by Verdi (2002, also at Teatro Carlo Felice of Genoa); four operas by Mozart, Ascanio in Alba (2006), Così fan tutte (2007), Le nozze di Figaro (2008), and Die Zauberflöte (2016 and 2019 at the Shangyin Opewra House in Shanghai); three Donizetti titles, Ugo, conte di Parigi (2003, also at Teatro Donizetti of Bergamo and Teatro Bellini of Catania in 2004), Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali (2009, also at the Kongres & Kultur Center of Aalborg, Denmark), and Don Pasquale (2012); and four works by Rossini, L’occasione fa il ladro (2010, on tour in 2011), L’Italiana in Algeri (2011), La scala di seta (2013), and Il barbiere di Siviglia (2005 and 2015). In 2017 the Academy soloists performed in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel, directed by Sven-Eric Bechtolf with Marc Albrecht on the podium, reprised in 2019 at the Teatro Lirico of Cagliari with Johannes Debus wielding the baton. In 2018—55 years after it was last performed at Teatro alla Scala—the students were engaged in Cherubini’s Ali Baba e i 40 ladroni in a production directed by Liliana Cavani and conducted by Paolo Carignani. In 2019 the students were involved in two productions: a diptych conducted by Ádám Fischer consisting of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, in a production by Woody Allen, and a new production of Prima la musica e poi le parole by Antonio Salieri, directed by Grischa Asagaroff; and Verdi’s Rigoletto conducted by Daniel Oren in the historical production by Gilberto Deflo, accompanied by Ambrogio Maestri in the first performance and by Leo Nucci in the second.
In 2022 they will perform Il matrimonio segreto by Domenico Cimarosa, conducted by ottavio Dantone and directed by Irina Brook.
An important initiative was introduced in the 2014-2015 season when Teatro alla Scala inaugurated its “Big Shows for Little People” with Rossini’s Cenerentola per bambini, directed by Ulrich Peter with Maxime Pascal conducting the orchestra. The program acquaints a younger audience with opera by presenting some of the most famous titles in the repertoire, performed by Academy musicians and soloists, specially adapted to a school-age audience. In 2015-2016, the children were enthralled by Il flauto magico, directed by Ulrich Peter with Min Chung and Paolo Spadaro taking turns on the podium. In 2016-2017 they were treated to Il ratto dal serraglio [The Abduction from the Seraglio] directed by Johannes Schmid and conducted by Michele Gamba. The titles featured during the 2017-2018 season were Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia and Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, both directed by Grischa Asagaroff with Pietro Mianiti conducting the orchestra. Donizetti’s opera was staged again during the 2018-2019 season, while La Cenerentola per bambini was chosen again for the 2019-2020, 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 seasons.
Academy soloists have taken the stage in preeminent theatres all over the world, delighting audiences in Austria, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Korea, Oman, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.
The stages of prestigious theatres in Italy and the world are now graced by the talents of former Academy students, including the sopranos Serena Farnocchia, Carmen Giannattasio, Anja Kampe, Irina Lungu, Nino Machaidze, Sae Kyung Rim, Pretty Yende, Federica Lombardi, and Fatma Said; the mezzosopranos Ketevan Kemoklidze, Anita Rachvelishvili, Nino Surguladze, and Aya Wakizono; the contralto Sonia Prina; the tenors Giuseppe Filianoti, Leonardo Cortellazzi, Azer Zada, and Giovanni Sala; the baritones Elia Fabbian, Fabio Capitanucci, Massimo Cavalletti, Christian Senn, Vincenzo Taormina, Filippo Fontana, Filippo Polinelli, and Mikheil Kiria; and the basses Simon Lim and Jong Min Park.
THANKS TO: Patrizia e Luigi Staffico, Techbau, Liliana Gallo Montarsolo in memoria di Paolo Montarsolo, Rotary Club Milano Scala, Rotary Club Milano Villoresi.