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


ROME (AP) — 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 on Tuesday after the opera house’s board of directors finalized 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 Aug. 1, 2025, while Ortombina will act as the director-designate until fully taking over.

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

Ortombina, 63, had already served as coordinator 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, Stéphane Lissner, Alexander Pereira and Dominique Meyer, an Italian returns to La Scala,” he said Tuesday.

“We have done everything for the good of La Scala, for dignity and fairness,” said Sala, the mayor, 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 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 the war in Gaza.

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