La Scala opening with conductor James Conlon canceled after strike

An exterior view of La Scala opera house in Milan, Italy. The opening night of the theater's ballet season was called off following a dispute with choristers in a production of Berlioz's "Romeo and Juliet."
(Carlo Ferraro / EPA)

James Conlon, the music director of Los Angeles Opera, was in Milan, Italy, this week to conduct the opening-night ballet performance of Hector Berlioz’s “Romeo and Juliet” at La Scala. But as things sometimes happen in Italy, Wednesday’s big opening was canceled due to a strike by members of the chorus.

A notice on the website for Teatro alla Scala read that the performance was called off due to the strike organized by unions representing the chorus. The new production of Berlioz’s piece features choreography by Sasha Waltz and is a co-production between La Scala, Deutsche Oper Berlin and Opéra National de Paris.

The production reportedly has been beset with problems, starting with protests from dancers who said the raked stage was causing them physical pain. Raked stages, which are angled up and away from the audience, are sometimes used in theater and operatic productions for dramatic effect or to allow performers at the back of the stage to be better seen by the audience.


The dancers had threatened to protest, but it remains unclear from published reports if they have walked out of the production. Meanwhile, some of the choristers were upset at having to appear on stage in costume and having to move in time with the music, according to a report in The Guardian.

The British newspaper reports that the choristers who are affected are demanding a bonus, but the management of the company has refused.

It’s not known if and when “Romeo and Juliet” will begin performances. The production had been scheduled to run through Jan. 8.

Conlon is due back in Los Angeles in March to conduct Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” at LA Opera.


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