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. The voice class, which also includes the ten soloists who began the course in 2017, once again is characterized by a strongly international profile, where students from Italy are joined by others from Albania, Azerbaijan, Chile, China, Cuba, Georgia, and South Korea.
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 and, in 2018, Cherubini’s Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
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.
The first opera that will feature them after Cherubini’s Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves is the children’s version of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore. This is the fifth title in the “Big Shows for Little People” series, an initiative inaugurated by Teatro alla Scala in 2014 to acquaint children with musical theatre through famous works from the opera repertoire in a simplified, readily comprehensible, version for young audiences (all operas are presented in their Italian version). Donizetti’s well known work will be on stage between November 2018 and March 2019 directed by Grischa Asagaroff with the Academy Orchestra conducted by Pietro Mianiti (November 3, 19, 25, 26 and December 10, 17, 28, 2018; January 10 and 28, February 23 and 25, and March 4 and 9, 2019). The opera will be presented again at the Teatro Donnafugata in Ragusa Ibla, where the Academy returns in April after the acclaim it received during the previous season.
The Academy is also engaged in an intense concert calendar, most notably at Teatro alla Scala, where the soloist opera singers will perform both at the Ridotto dei Palchi for the customary Academy Concerts series (January 24 and April 3) and in the main auditorium as part of the Invitation to La Scala series (February 18), with Vincenzo Scalera on piano. The soloist will then be accompanied by the Academy Orchestra in the traditional annual concert (May 9).
The Academy shares its talents with the world: from concerts at the New National Theatre of Tokyo (September 16 and 17) and the Silversea Spirit cruise to Piraeus (October 1 and 5) to those at the Al Bustan International Festival of Music and the Performing Arts in Beirut (March 11).