Come the holiday season, Italy will have regained two of its famed opera houses in the span of one year. Last Christmas, Venice’s much-loved Fenice Opera House, which was destroyed by arson in 1996, reopened. And on Dec. 7, Milan’s crown jewel, La Scala, will reopen to the public after a two-year restoration. To celebrate the occasion, an international group of opera lovers, ambassadors and Italian cultural types gathered at the Guggenheim last week for a kick-off party. Riccardo De Corato, the deputy mayor of Milan, said 300 people “have been working quickly for two years aiming at giving back the splendor of La Scala to the Milan citizens and to the citizens of the world.”

De Corato hosted a slide-show presentation on the restoration work, which showed how 11 coats of paint were stripped from the auditorium, foyer and lobby walls to reveal the original marbling detail. The original floors — some covered in carpet, others in linoleum —were restored, and the building’s decorative elements were cleaned. Architect Mario Botta also updated the staging areas and acoustics to 21st-century standards.

This story first appeared in the October 19, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The touch-up isn’t the first one the famed theater has had. La Scala, hit during a bombing raid on Milan in World War II, was restored and reopened in 1946. But this time around, the aim was to take the house back to an even earlier glory.

“On opening day, the citizens will receive the same Scala that many generations had been enjoying at the time of Empress Maria Teresa of Austria,” said De Corato. In other words, prepare to be transported back to 1778.

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