Milan’s La Scala names new director of opera house after months of controversy

17 April 2024, 16:44

La Scala opera house in Milan, Italy
Italy La Scala New Leader. Picture: PA

Fortunato Ortombina’s appointment comes as Italy’s government is trying to promote Italian nationals for leadership positions.

Milan’s La Scala, one of the world’s most prestigious and historic opera houses, has named Fortunato Ortombina as its new director, ending months of political controversy.

He will step into the post in September at the famed Teatro alla Scala.

The city’s mayor, Giuseppe Sala, made the announcement after the opera house’s board of directors finalised Ortombina’s appointment.

La Scala’s new leader, currently the general manager at Venice’s opera house La Fenice, takes over from Dominque Meyer, who has been at the helm of Milan’s opera since 2020.

Meyer will remain in his current position until August 1 2025, while Ortombina will act as the director-designate until fully taking over.

Ortombina’s appointment comes as Italy’s government under Premier Giorgia Meloni is trying to promote Italian nationals for leadership positions, favouring them over foreigners for major cultural posts.

Ortombina, 63, had already served as co-ordinator of La Scala’s artistic direction from 2003-2007, before becoming the artistic director at La Fenice.

Italy’s culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano – who has made bringing Italians back at the helm of the country’s main institutions one of his top priorities – hailed the new appointment.

“After three foreign general directors, Stephane Lissner, Alexander Pereira and Dominique Meyer, an Italian returns to La Scala,” he said.

“We have done everything for the good of La Scala, for dignity and fairness,” said Mr Sala, explaining that Meyer’s contract will be partially extended to ensure a soft transition.

Meyer, 68, has earned wide respect and recognition in Italy and abroad over his years at the helm of La Scala.

His replacement comes against the backdrop of new rules introduced last year by Ms Meloni’s government, which set an age limit of 70 for opera directors.

La Scala is no stranger to political issues.

Last month, ahead of the final performance of an opera-ballet set in conflict, La Scala’s principal dancer Roberto Bolle, Meyer and other members of the dance company, orchestra and stage crew lined up on the stage under a large banner inscribed with “Cease fire” – a reference to the war in Gaza.

By Press Association

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