La Scala Opera Taps an Italian to Be Its Next Leader

The Teatro alla Scala in Milan, one of the world’s most prestigious and storied opera houses, announced Tuesday that its next leader would be Fortunato Ortombina, who is currently general director of Venice’s opera house, Teatro La Fenice.

Ortombina will succeed Dominique Meyer, a respected French impresario who has run La Scala since 2020 and who previously led the Vienna State Opera. The appointment of Ortombina comes as Italy’s current national government has made it clear that it favors homegrown talent over foreigners at major cultural posts.

“A decision has finally been reached,” Mayor Giuseppe Sala of Milan, who is the chairman of the foundation that runs the opera house, said Tuesday after a board meeting. The appointment of Ortombina ended months of speculation and whispers in the opera world.

Italy’s culture minister, Gennaro Sangiuliano, enthusiastically welcomed the appointment on Tuesday. “After three foreign general directors, Stéphane Lissner, Alexander Pereira and Dominique Meyer, an Italian returns to La Scala,” he said in a statement, which noted that the practice of Italian opera singing had recently been added to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list.

Ortombina’s appointment was unanimous, Sala said Tuesday. It was widely expected, and followed months of rejected candidates, crossed vetoes pitting board members against lawmakers at the local and national levels, and even a new law instituting age limits for theater leaders that critics said was intended to oust the foreigners who hold such posts.

The haggling had risked putting politics and vested interests ahead of the theater’s artistic legacy, said Alberto Mattioli, an opera critic who recently published a book about Italy’s opera houses and their history. “It’s all been a power game” over appointments, while omitting discussion of cultural policy or a vision for the theater and its “core business, opera,” he said.

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