For the first time an Italian woman conducts La Scala: Speranza Scappucci on the podium

Speranza Scappucci is the first Italian woman to conduct the orchestra at La Scala in Milan, and the first ever to conduct an opera in the historical repertoire. The debut set for Jan. 18.

She is not the first woman ever to conduct an opera at La Scala in Milan (she was preceded by Claire Gibault and Susanna Mälkki), but Speranza Scappucci is nonetheless the first Italian woman to take the podium at the Milanese theater and the first ever to conduct an opera in the historical melodramatic repertoire. Scappucci’s debut at La Scala will be Jan. 18, when the Roman conductor will lead the orchestra in the premiere of I Capuleti e i Montecchi, an 1830 opera by Vincenzo Bellini. Scappucci was called in at the last minute to replace Evelino Pidò, who was forced to forfeit due to “reasons related to the health emergency,” the theater announced in a note. The conductor thus anticipates her La Scala debut, which had been set for May 5: Scappucci will in fact conduct the La Scala Philharmonic in the spring for Schubert’s Italian-style Overture, Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante and Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony No. 4.

Speranza Scappucci, born in Rome in 1973, graduated from the Juilliard School in New York and the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome, and has worked in theaters in Vienna, Rome, Barcelona, Zurich, Los Angeles, and New York, with experience on such major stages as those of the Vienna State Opera and the Metropolitan Opera. She has been conductor of the Royal Opéra de Wallonie in Liège since 2017 and is among the most highly regarded conductors of her generation. For Scappucci, however, this is a return to Milan, since in June 2021 he had conducted the young people of the Accademia del Teatro alla Scala for the concert given to mark the start of the renovation of the Torre Velasca.

“I am very excited and feel strongly the responsibility for this sudden and unexpected engagement,” Scappucci said on her Facebook profile. “I thank Superintendent Meyer and the entire theater, especially the orchestra, for how they have welcomed me and for their desire to stage the production despite the difficulties. A special thought to Maestro Evelino Pidò, to whom I wish to be able to resume the activity as soon as possible.”

Vincenzo Bellini’s opera, a reinterpretation of the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet and their love thwarted by their respective families that give I Capuleti e i Montecchi its title, has been missing at La Scala since 1987.The opera now returns in the new production directed by Speranza Scappucci, which also marks the La Scala debut of director Adrian Noble, for thirteen years director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The cast fields some of the benchmark Bellini voices of our time (among others, Lisette Oropesa, Marianne Crebassa, Jinxu Xiahou, Michele Pertusi and Jongmin Park).

As mentioned, Speranza Scappucci is not the first woman ever to conduct the La Scala orchestra. She was preceded by Frenchwoman Claire Gibault, who conducted Fabio Vacchi’s La station thermale in 1995, while in 2011 it was Susanna Mälkki ’s turn to conduct the debut of Luca Francesconi’s Quartett. However, these were two contemporary operas; Scappucci is the first woman to direct a historical opera.

Photo: Speranza Scappucci

For the first time an Italian woman conducts La Scala: Speranza Scappucci on the podium
For the first time an Italian woman conducts La Scala: Speranza Scappucci on the podium

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