Ukrainian Citizens Ask Teatro Alla Scala to Cancel Russian Works

By Francisco Salazar

As the War in Ukraine heads into its eighth month, the Teatro alla Scala and Arezzo are facing protests by the Ukrainian population.

At the Teatro alla Scala, Giuseppe Sala, the mayor of Milan and president of the Teatro alla Scala Foundation, received a letter asking the company to rethink its 2022-23 season. The letter was sent by Ukrainian citizens and by 23 Italian-Ukrainian associations asking La Scala to replace Russian shows at the Teatro alla Scala.

The letter notes that Russian propaganda is using the fact that La Scala will open the season with a Russian opera, “Boris Godunov” and noting that Russians “are convinced that the country is perceived as the bearer of their great culture, that Putin’s policy is shared by the majority of people.”

The letter also made reference to Wagner and Israel and said that presenting Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky brings Ukrainians back to the ruins of Mariupol.

Meanwhile in Arezzo protesters lined up at the Piazza San Francesco near the Teatro Petrarca asking the Comune to cancel all programs featuring Russian art including a recital on Feb. 7 with soprano Anna Netrebko. The protesters said that moving forward with the performance was offensive at the moment.

The Teatro alla Scala is set to open the season with “Boris Godunov” featuring Ildar Abdrazakov and Alexey Markov, both of whom have been major presences at the Mariinsky Theatre over the past few months. The company will also feature Mariinsky Theatre singer Ekaterina Semenchuk as well as Netrebko, who has opposed the war on three different occasions.

This is not the first letter sent to a major opera house. At the Metropolitan Opera, a campaign directed at General Manager Peter Gelb is asking for more Ukrainian artists to be present at the world-famous New York house. The campaign stated, “No sooner had Russian missiles begun flying over Ukraine than a giant Ukrainian flag was unfurled at the Metropolitan Opera and a benefit concert for Ukraine took place on its stage, thanks to you and your principled position.”

It added, “For more than half a year our land has been scarred by the brutality of war, but we feel unprecedented support for Ukraine and Ukrainian culture, especially from the Met, and for this we are sincerely and immensely grateful. We thank you for inviting Ukraine’s most illustrious soprano, Liudmyla Monatyrska, to sing the title role in ‘Turandot,’ including a live HD broadcast to cinemas around the world. Owing to your Herculean efforts and invaluable support, Keri-Lynn Wilson was able to form the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra and lead a triumphant tour of Europe and the United States.”

In the campaign, the letter asked the Met to consider such artists as Alla Kulbaba, Oleg Zlakoman, and Sergey Kovnir.

The Metropolitan Opera has been a major supporter of the Ukrainian cause but at the same time has maintained that it will not cancel the works of Pushkin. It has also banned Putin-supported artists while still hiring singers such as Yulia Matochkina and Evgeny Nikitin, who have been singing at the Mariinksy Theater alongside Putin supporter Valery Gergiev during the war.