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Online theaters: La Scala arrives on Google Arts & Culture

La Scala announces a new collaboration with Google Arts & Culture

Thanks to the Google platform dedicated to art, it is now possible to navigate between 259 thousand images digitized from the theater archive, browse the pages of Giuseppe Verdi’s first libretto of N abucco, observe the scenographies signed by artists such as D avid Hockney and Giorgio De Chirico. And still immerse yourself in the wonderful costumes of the shows

Online theaters: La Scala arrives on Google Arts & Culture
Online theaters: La Scala arrives on Google Arts & Culture

Online theaters: La Scala arrives on Google Arts & Culture

Edges of feathers like inexperienced models. “For our project, Google used costumes for the first time the Art Camera, a very high resolution camera (between 6 and 12 billion pixels) normally used for paintings. This created some difficulties for the exposure times: the object must remain motionless for a long time, which is not always easy with some light materials “, says Paolo Besana, head of the press office of the Teatro alla Scala, a meticulous melomaniac who a passionate impetus has managed to convince the communication experts of the provider-symbol of this era to make available also the contents of extraordinary and semi-forgotten works such as Simon Boccanegra by Giuseppe Verdi, a very current drama around the crisis of a power system and of friendly solidarity.

Pier Luigi Pizzi’s costume for Marilyn Horne as Giocasta in Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex

Favored by the country director of Google Italy, Fabio Vaccarono, in these hours the collaboration between is announced Google Arts & Culture with the Foundation of the symbol-theater of the opera in the world, in search of solutions to keep its appeal intact in the face of a closure that will last at least until late autumn and which is the cause of infinite thoughts for the new superintendent Dominique Meyer : even in the future, respecting the measures of social distancing in a space designed two and a half centuries ago to encourage socializing and the commonality of feelings and emotions will be very complex. In recent weeks, the theater has made agreements with Rai, which is making available on Rai5 and on Raiplay platform some of the most significant productions of the last twenty years, and opened for free virtual visits to the Theater Museum, in addition to providing access to the nominal and historical cataloging of the stages from 1778 to 1920.

The agreement with Google brings the “experience”, as any expression of cultural or commercial interest is now defined, a step further. Indeed, many steps forward, naturally virtual. In the online collection of the Teatro alla Scala you can walk around the theater with Street View, find out what it feels like to go on stage, attend a ballet from the Royal Stage or browse the industrial workshop, where artisans create incredible stages, props and almost a thousand costumes every year, including – historical heritage – creations by stylists such as Gianni Versace and Yves Saint Laurent. For the melomaniacs seduced by the iconography, the additions have been made available 259 thousand images digitized from the theater archive, making it possible to browse the pages of a rare handwritten edition of the score of Turandot, the first libretto of Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco or to know the various artists whose work has embellished the stage of the Scala, including David Hockney and Giorgio De Chirico (who yes, with his brother Alberto Savinio he also painted the covers for Fashion).

The view from the audience of the Teatro Alla Scala, on Google Arts & Culture

The agreement takes into consideration the interests of the most diverse audiences, including that of experts or even amateurs of custom: for the first time, in fact, not only are the historical-technical sheets of twelve of the most precious and significant items preserved in the Archive and restored thanks to the Amici della Scala foundation, but also their image, according to highly valorizing techniques and, in fact, unpublished for a so-called minor art such as theater manufacturing. Even by accessing images from the less advanced computer, it is possible to admire details of the trimmings, seams and reflections of the jewelry in glass paste and hard stones with an effect very close to 3D: absolute pleasure.

Are there “the Callas”? Of course, and numerous, from Medea a Fedora at Il Turco in Italy, but there is no lack of true architectural wonders such as the felt larva costume stiffened by the coating of glue and covered with thermoformed bubbles designed in 1968 by Pier Luigi Pizzi for Marilyn Horne in the role of Jocasta in Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, symbolic stratification of elements taken both from the early-twentieth-century tradition of matryoshka and from the example of Fabergé eggs and, in a broad but evident sense, from the symbolism of motherhood. The carapaces of Pizzi, inspired by a note by Jean Cocteau on the cohabitation relationship between costume and character, prevented the movements, making it essential to transport the singers on stage by means of elevators or treadmills, and represent an unparalleled historical document of the seasons Scaligere of those years, crossed by the political commitment of the musical director of the time, Claudio Abbado, and his search for the dramatic essentiality of the gesture.

Maria Callas in the Fedora of 1955, as can be seen on Google Arts & Culture

The interest of a costume lies in fact only partially in its manufacture (sometimes, as in the case of the absolute genius of the Italian twentieth century, Piero Gherardi, the costumes are made of little and nothing to live in the gaze and perception of the observer). What makes a costume unique is in fact its adherence to the social drives and aesthetic currents of the period in which it is created. Let’s look at the Marie Antoinette of Norma Shearer dressed as Adrian and, even if, between the baskets and the wigs, we know how to immediately place the film in the 1930s; let’s look at the Medea designed and painted by Salvatore Fiume on silk and the sculptures by Massimo Campigli and Capri from the 1950s come to mind. Or, again, let’s observe the Callas dressed by Franco Zeffirelli for the Turk in Italy and never ever would we observe, as Eugenio Montale who wrote the review of the show did, to have admired “a very pretty eighteenth-century Naples”.

To understand the historical value of a costume or scene when it is staged is very difficult: in retrospect, it is a fun and relatively easy exercise, and therefore it makes us smile at the irony that Zeffirelli demonstrates, dressing Maria Callas with a parody of the stage furnishings in her ascent period, the early 1950s. Pure philology is not given in the costume, much less in the fantasy work of a Nicola Benois whose review presents a Maria Stuarda and a Fedora who both seem to come out of the wardrobe for the masked ball of a noble Russian emigrée; even in the work of a philologist like Piero Tosi (and in the Google-choice there is also the beautiful setting of Traviata by Liliana Cavani from 1986 with the costumes of his student-Oscar, Gabriella Pescucci), it is possible to trace elements that make the costume testimony of its own age, and not only that of the text.

And then there are the leaders for connoisseurs, archaeologists of the costume: first of all, the costume of Fiorenza Cossotto, Amneris in the preparation of Aida of the 1962-1963 season designed by Lila de Nobili, the fashion and costume artist who had flanked Luchino Visconti in the legendary 1955 Traviata with Callas. The inspiration, even in the shapes and cuts of the late 1950s, look towards late-nineteenth-century orientalism, therefore coeval with the composition of the opera, and mixes different elements in an eclectic theatrical pastiche: the corset is recovered from a costume from the 1920s. , the Caramba era, while the bottom of the long coat instead comes from an ecclesiastical costume. Even the jewels mix creation and reuse, according to the practice still very much in vogue in the 60s: the crown, designed by De Nobili, was made by the Marangoni company while the necklace, embellished with Murano glass stones, dates back to the 20s.

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