The Academy of Lyric Opera was founded in 1997 thanks to the initiative of Riccardo Muti, with Leyla Gencer (who passed away in 2008) as Artistic Director. The Academy’s mission is to embody the heritage of the glorious “Cadetti della Scala”, founded by Arturo Toscanini in 1950.
Thanks to the contributions of numerous internationally recognized instructors, such as Renato Bruson, Luciana D’Intino and Luciana Serra, the Academy provides young singers with solid vocal and musical training for professional careers, improving participants’ technical and interpretative skills in a two-year course.
In addition, a number of masterclasses have been held with instructors like Luis Alva, Teresa Berganza, Enzo Dara, Mirella Freni, Christa Ludwig, Leo Nucci, Renata Scotto and Shirley Verrett. Daily study is interwoven with student participation in Scala productions, where soloists work alongside performers, conductors and directors of international fame.
Particular importance is also given to concert performances in Italy and abroad, as well as participation in opera productions, such as the “Academy Project“, a show created entirely by students and which is included in the regular Scala season program.
Many works have been performed at the Scala and at other major Italian opera houses: among the latest productions were operas from the Mozart collection, including Ascanio in Alba (2006), Così fan tutte (2007), The Marriage of Figaro (2008), Die Zauberflöte (2016) as well as Donizetti’s Le convenienze e inconvenienze teatrali (2009) and Don Pasquale (2012) and Rossini’s L’occasione fa il ladro (2010), L’italiana in Algeri (2011) and La scala di seta (2013). In 2017 the Project staged Hänsel und Gretel by Humperdinck.
Many former students are now admired in the major opera houses and theatres in Italy and abroad: the sopranos Serena Farnocchia, Carmen Giannattasio, Anja Kampe, Irina Lungu, Nino Machaidze, Teresa Romano and Pretty Yende; the mezzo Ketevan Kemoklidze, Anita Rachvelishvili, Nino Surguladze, the alto Sonia Prina, tenors Thiago Arancam, Leonardo Cortellazzi, Giuseppe Filianoti, baritones Simon Bailey, Fabio Capitanucci, Massimo Cavalletti, Christian Senn, Vincenzo Taormina and the basses Carlo Malinverno, Giovanni Battista Parodi, Dejan Vatchkov.
The musical repertoire spans from the Baroque to 19th century Italian and French melodrama, and also includes Italian, French and German vocal chamber music.
Their first opera engagement scheduled in 2017-18 is Hänsel und Gretel, a title by Humperdinck rarely performed in Italy. The orchestra has been conducted by Marc Albrecht with stage direction by Sven-Eric Bechtolf. This opera has not been performed at Teatro alla Scala since 1959, and this will be the first time that it has been performed in the original German.
The students have been working long and hard on the Project. The soloists in the La Scala Academy of Lyric Opera have been working for nine months under the guidance of such luminaries as opera coach Eva Mei together with James Vaughan, lead rehearsal accompanist for Teatro alla Scala, and Sven-Eric Bechtolf, who has honed their interpretive skills as performers and actors.
After the Academy Project, the soloists performed Il barbiere di Siviglia per bambini, the fourth title in the “Big Shows for Little People” project, an initiative inaugurated at Teatro alla Scala in 2014 to familiarize school children with musical theatre by performing famous works from the opera repertoire in versions specially adapted to children (all operas are performed in their Italian version).
Rossini’s famous opera, performed on the sesquicentennial of his death, will run from November 2017 to March 2018 under the baton of Pietro Mianiti, with Grischa Asagaroff directing (November 12, 13 and 27; December 11, 17, 18 and 28; January 7 and 27; February 25, 27 and 28; and March 11 and 12). The same artists will also perform L’elisir d’amore per bambini on the La Scala stage in July 2018 (the 4th, 6th and 10th).
The composer from Pesaro will continue to be honored during the year by the Academy opera singers, who will perform the “adult” version of Il barbiere di Siviglia at the small Teatro Donnafugata in Ragusa Ibla (November 22, 23 and 24, 2017) in a semi-staged version directed by Marco Gandini, and at the Auditorium Rai of Turin in a concert version conducted by Giampaolo Bisanti (June 28, 2018).
The opera titles are complemented by concerts and recitals in Italy and abroad. Among them we would like to mention the concerts at the Italian Institute of Culture in Paris (September 13, 2017, in memory of Maria Callas), for Silversea Spirit Pireo (September 23 and 25, 2017), at the Museo Teatrale alla Scala (November 20, 2017), for the Società dei Concerti (December 18, 2017), the traditional series at the Ridotto dei Palchi (February 1 and April 17, 2018), the Invitation to La Scala (March 19, 2018), two concerts in Abu Dhabi with the Accademia Orchestra (March 28 and 30, 2018) and the traditional concert at Teatro alla Scala to close the academic year with the Academy orchestra (May 14, 2018).