La Scala's 2018-19 season features Verdi, Woody Allen

MILAN — The storied La Scala opera house announced Wednesday that it will open the 2018-19 season with a new production of Verdi's "Attila," continuing the tradition of Italian opera, while introducing some novelty, including Woody Allen directing Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi."

General manager Alexander Pereira said he himself will appear in Richard Strauss' "Ariadne auf Naxos," in a speaking role that he has reprised elsewhere and that he quipped would be non-paying at La Scala.

Next year's season will feature 15 operas, mostly Italian, including nine new productions and two productions making their La Scala debut.

"Attila" will be the second gala premiere dedicated to Verdi's more youthful compositions, written when he was just 33 years old, following "Giovanna d'Arco" in 2015, said music director Riccardo Chailly, who will complete the trilogy in the future with Verdi's "Macbeth." The three were composed between 1845 and 1847.

Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov will sing the title role opposite soprano Saioa Hernandez as Odabella, singers that Chailly described as ideal for the parts.

Allen is expected to personally follow the direction of "Gianni Schicchi," alongside Kathleen Smith Belcher, who restaged the 2008 production in Los Angeles in 2015-2016. Allen's "Schicchi" will play alongside a new La Scala production of Antonio Salieri's "Prima la Musica Poi le Parole."

"Everyone loves (Allen's) films, maybe we can do a small festival," with a cinematic institute, Pereira said.

The two short operas are part of La Scala's focus on bringing back Italian bel canto tradition, which next season also will include Rossini's "La Cenerentola," or Cinderella, Donizetti's "L'elisir d'amore," conducted by Michele Gamba making his La Scala debut. As previously announced, Cecilia Bartoli will sing in Handel's "Giulio Cesare," part of a new three-year Baroque music program.

The symphonic season is comprised of eight concerts, including Chailly conducting two Mahler symphonies, the 5th and the 10th, while Zubin Mehta will conduct Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 5 next May.

Pereira noted that the opera house had increased tickets sales by 8 million euros from 2014-2018 thanks to the addition of dozens of performances in the traditionally quiet fall months. The new season also will include 35 performances for children, which Pereira said brings 50,000 children to the theater along with 10,000 parents "who we may have lost years ago but are returning to La Scala with their children."

Mayor Giuseppe Sala, who is chairman of La Scala's board, praised the opera house for being on budget for the 13th straight year, saying "few big Italian theaters can say they have their accounts in order."

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This story has been corrected to show that Alexander Pereira will perform in Richard Strauss' "Ariadne auf Naxos," not in "Die Tote Stadt" by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

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