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Friday, 12 July, 2002, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
La Scala refit starts legal row
Albanian soprano Inva Mula (left) as Violetta Valery and South American tenor Marcelo Alvarez (right) as Alfredo
Renovation will allow for more productions to be staged
Milan's famous opera company, La Scala, has found itself at the centre of a court battle as preservationists fight to stop work to pull out the stage and backstage area.

The building plans are part of an ambitious restoration programme on the18th Century venue, begun six months ago.

Italian environmental group Legambiente has begun legal proceedings, arguing the space is as historically important as the theatre's delicate boxes and galleries.

La Scala's officials say the restoration is necessary for the company to put on more and better productions.

La Scala
La Scala will reopen in three years

An administrative tribunal is to rule over the summer on the petition to stop the work, which is already well under way.

La Scala was closed to the public in January for 30 months of renovation at a cost of $39m (25m).

Performances are continuing at La Scala's new, temporary home at the Teatro degli Arcimboldi on Milan's outskirts.

The architect on the restoration project is Mario Botta.

His designs involve raising the roof over the main theatre to allow for a higher backstage storage area. An extension will be added to increase office space.

There will be more rehearsal room, a new stage and improved security, electrical and fire systems.

'Demolish'

The renovation is intended to allow the company to alternate operas and their bulky sets on a regular basis.

La Scala's artistic director, Paolo Arca said: "We must increase performances and titles that we do in one year.

A view of the new Arcimboldi theatre
Performances continue at the Arcimboldi theatre

"For these reasons, the renovation of the stage is absolutely necessary."

Architect Mario Morgante, president of Legambiente's Milan chapter, disagrees.

"The chiefs of La Scala decided to restore the theatre but they didn't think of it as a restoration," Mr Morgante said. "They thought to demolish and reconstruct."

Legambiente also filed a complaint alleging violations in the awarding of renovation contracts.

Opera house officials deny the allegations.

Accidents

La Scala was built by Giuseppe Piermarini in 1775-78, after Milan's Royal Ducal Theatre burned down.

It is considered one of the finest opera houses in the world and is particularly cherished in its native Italy.

Last month, there was a scare when a small piece of wood caught fire under the stage during renovations.

The Arcimboldi also suffered a mishap during one of its early performances when a glass light panel crashed to the ground. No one was injured.

Work on the old theatre is due to finish by December 2004.

The Arcimboldi will then house a theatre, touring opera and special La Scala performances.

See also:

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