Written by – DIANA SALA
Translated by – LUCREZIA IUSSI
Photos by – STEFANO DI FONZO

Revolart had the chance of visiting the Teatro alla Scala Workshop in Milan, thanks to the Gruppo Giovani of Milano per La Scala Foundation (you can read more here).

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Our guide from the CIVITA Association led us inside the former Ansaldo steelwork area, which has been gathering the Theatre workshops since 2001; over 150 workers, among set designers, costume designers, blacksmiths, carpenters, sculptors, tailors and artisans, are employed here. The area was selected because it’s divided into three pavilions, later dedicated to the director Luchino Visconti, the set designer Nicola Benois and the costume designer Luigi Sapelli (aka Caramba). These pavilions allow to accomodate the big equipment, the several costumes and the scenic designs and, besides, to watch them during the process of creation from above, thanks to several elevated walkways, in order to get the same visual effect the audience will experience during the show.

The Teatro alla Scala workshops produce everything that’s later put on stage, from costumes to scenic designs, from wigs to colours for scenery backdrops; the only artisan who hasn’t been replaced after he retired is the one in charge of the footwear.

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Everything that’s put on stage has to be suitable to be transported on trucks to the Theatre, fireproof and as light as possible.

It was possible for us to visit the Benois and the Caramba pavilions. The first hosts the carpentry, set design and stage plastics departments.

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Here we had the chance of seeing the creation process of a part of a backdrop for the CO2 show, made for Expo, as well as the restoration of one of the backdrops of Turandot. The artisans were mainly working on scenic designs in canvas, although they also produce 3D and digital scenic designs, which nowadays are more and more often used, since they are cheaper, more practical and transportable without needing any special night services (which instead generally happens for scenic designs in canvas).

We were shown the machettes, which are the scale models of the mechanisms of every scenic design, to study space and movement, which are essential to every installation. The peculiarity of these projects is the fact that they are made with the same materials that will be later employed in the final scenic design.

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In the next room we touched the scale stage plastics and we observed the making of one the colours, starting from the powders, used to paint a tree in the CO2 backdrop.

After visiting the room where the metal parts are cut for the displacement of the scenic designs (an operation that was once performed manually, thanks to one of the most advanced systems of hydraulics and valves) and where the steel and iron parts for the 3D scenic designs, as doors or gates, are made, we entered into the Caramba pavilion.

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The second pavilion is entirely reserved to the creation, the rehearsal, the cleaning and the care of the costumes. The biggest areas, other than the costume rehearsal area, are the actual dressing department, the laundrette and the costumes warehouse.
We were only permitted to visit the costumes and accessories warehouse, which houses wigs, hats, tiaras and headgears.

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The 1400 closets we saw contain 60000 stage costumes, ranging from 1911 to today (we saw the ones from Giselle, Fidelio, Romeo and Juliet and the latest Carmen); the costumes are expertly kept and classified based on the year of the production, the costume designer, the scenic designer and even the person who wore them.

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After we left the pavilion we saw the property men’s door and we ended our tour while the staff was loading a set of costumes, probably for the Turandot, up one of the two trucks owned by the Teatro alla Scala.

(You can read the italian version of this article here)

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