Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Dance Vies with Opera at la Scala

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Dance Vies with Opera at la Scala

Article excerpt

GAZING up into the gilded, six-tier balcony of La Scala Theater causes many a newcomer to shiver with excitement.

But on opening night of the La Scala Opera Ballet season, the company received a less-than-excited response to its presentation of Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet." From overture to curtain call, tension dimmed the proceedings, as though audience and performers were not in full sympathy. What could be behind it?

Not unlike Shakespeare's immortal tale of feuding families, La Scala Opera Ballet has experienced internal turmoil over the last five years as it tries to maintain its identity in the shadow of its richer sibling - the world-famous opera. Directors have come and gone, and dancers have gone on strike, creating an atmosphere detrimental to progress.

Some dance observers are hopeful, though, that with the return this season of Giuseppe Carbone, who directed the ballet more than a decade ago, the company will receive a boost and gain status as an organization separate from the opera.

In an interview, Mr. Carbone acknowledges the company's recent troubles. A chief cause is that "the mentality at the opera house is concerned with the opera and not with the ballet," a typical problem for many opera-ballet theaters around the world, he says. For the ballet to be successful, "you must have the director of the theater on your side." Carbone says he feels good about his rapport with director Carlo Fontana, who arrived a year ago and hired Carbone, former ballet director at the Verona Arena and of the Venice Ballet.

"Unfortunately, in Italy, culture is very connected to politics," says Maria Elisa Buccella, a freelance dance critic in Rome and arts writer for Rai Corporation, a broadcasting company. Italy's 13 public opera-ballet theaters, including La Scala, are totally dependent upon government funding. Every year, the government gives La Scala, its most treasured theater, 70.75 billion lire (about $56 million), "but almost all of it goes for the opera and the concerts," Ms. Buccella says. "That's the reason why some very good {ballet} directors would not stay here."

American Patricia Neary resigned as ballet director in 1987 after a one-and-a-half year stint. …

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