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Everyone who likes classical music, opera, or ballet must know La Scala (short for Teatro Alla Scala). You can read about La Scala here. Nonetheless, La Scala is not the only theater in Milan that can present unforgettable performances.
The Piccolo Teatro of Milano (a name that translates to Little Theater of Milan) is the earliest of the 17 teatro stabile in Italy. A teatro stabile (stable theater) is a type of theater that is more autonomous than other theaters belonging to municipalities. A teatro stabile is managed by artists who believe that the education and moral growth of theatergoers should be taken into account more than profit. This is why different teatro stabile in Italy have cheaper tickets and subscriptions than the theaters managed following other philosophies.
The Piccolo Teatro was founded in 1947 by Paolo Grassi (a theater entrepreneur from Milan) and Giorgio Strehler (a genial theater director born in Trieste who operated mostly in Milan). Grassi and Strehler first managed the theater, together or alone, until 1997, when Strehler passed away. At the beginning, the Piccolo Teatro was located in via Rovello. However, the success of the project was that a new bigger site was needed. In 1998, some months after the death of Giorgio Strehler, the beautiful new building was inaugurated, in Largo Greppi 1. Today, the Piccolo Teatro includes three sites: the Teatro Strehler (the new largest building), the Teatro Grassi (the original site of the Piccolo), and the Teatro Studio (via Rivoli, 6), where smaller or more avant-garde productions are presented. The Piccolo Teatro became known shortly after its foundation, thanks to Strehler’s direction of Arlecchino Servitore di due Padroni (Servant of Two Masters) by Carlo Goldoni. This show has been represented worldwide and has contributed to making Italian theater influential again.
A very recent yet important theater of Milan is the Teatro degli Arcimboldi, or TAM (located in via dell’Innovazione, 20). It was inaugurated in 2002 (with a memorable representation of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata) to welcome the theatergoers deprived of La Scala, which was undergoing renovation. The dimensions of the Arcimboldi Theater are very similar to those of La Scala; in particular, the stage is almost the same size so that shows can be performed indifferently in either location. Not only is the Teatro degli Arcimboldi a great place for opera and dramas, but its acoustics also make it a good venue for any kind of music. Great musicians who have performed at the Arcimboldi Theater include John Zorn, Tom Waits, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Liza Minnelli, Paolo Conte, and Sting.
A much older theater than the Arcimboldi is the Teatro Carcano (located in Corso di Porta Romana, 63). It was inaugurated in 1803, after two years of construction. Its architect, Luigi Canonica, modeled it after La Scala; it had a neoclassical style, and it presented four levels of boxes. The main accomplishments of the theater include the following: - 1813: The first exhibition in Milan by Niccolò Paganini, genial violinist and composer - 1830: The world premiere of Gaetano Donizetti’s Anna Bolena (Anne Boleyn) - 1831: The world premiere of Vincenzo Bellini’s La Sonnambula (The Sleepwalker)
Today, it is impossible to see the original shape of the theater. In 1913, both the facade and the interior were completely renovated by Architect Moretti to mirror the style of those times.
An “alternative” to the “mainstream” theaters is the Teatro Libero (Free Theater), in via Savona, 6 . It has a very peculiar location: it is on top of a building, and it can be reached either by elevator or by flights of stairs close to private houses. It is a very small but very well-known theater; although it can hardly accommodate more than 100 people, in the 2004–2005 season, the Teatro Libero welcomed more than 33,000 people.
The Teatro Litta is located in the beautiful Corso Magenta, at the civic number 24. It was built during different historic phases, starting from the 17th century. It was designed in a baroque style, which harmonizes very well with the surroundings. Like the Piccolo Teatro, it follows the teatro stabile idea: prices are set at a level that should encourage people to watch performances rather than solely to maximize the profits of the owners.
The Teatro Manzoni of Milan also has a long history. It was originally located (since 1870) in Piazza San Fedele in Milan. It was dedicated to author Alessandro Manzoni shortly after his death. Unfortunately, it was destroyed during World War II. It was rebuilt from 1943 to 1950, in the new site of via Manzoni, 42. It accommodates 840 people in a classic horseshoe architecture.
The Teatro Nazionale (National Theater) was inaugurated in 1924 by movie entrepreneur Mario Rota. It was renovated in 1979 by his son, Giordano, who established that it should be used for theatrical plays and musicals rather than for movies only. The little street leading to the theater has been named after Giordano: the theater’s address is, in fact, via Giordano Rota, 1. In 2009, the Teatro Nazionale was restructured by Dutch musical production company Stage Entertainment. Today, the Teatro Nazionale, which accommodates 1,500 people, sports amplification technologies that make it a perfect place to host international musical productions. In 2015, the Teatro Nazionale will present famous musical productions the likes of Stomp and Momix.
Contemporary and thought-provoking plays are performed at the Teatro dell’Elfo (Elf’s Theater), located in Corso Buenos Aires 33 in Milan, where the Teatro Puccini once was. This theater specializes in “alternative” productions, showing that you can find whatever type of show you prefer in a theater in Milan.