Opera at La Scala ★★★

Opera at La Scala, Milan, Italy (Photo © Reid Brambeltt)

Milan's famous Teatro alla Scala opera house

The line for last-minute tickets, Opera at La Scala, Milan, Italy. (Photo © Reid Brambeltt)

Milan's premier opera house is where Toscanini twirled his baton, Giuseppe Verdi was once the in-house composer, and Maria Callas trilled her way to fame and fortune.

La Scala has been perhaps the most important opera house in the world since 1778. This is where Verdi, Bellini, Rossini, and Donizetti premiered their works—among them Norma, Nabucco, Madama Butterfly, and Aïda.

Closed frequently (and repeatedly) in recent decades to effect for one restoration after another, it seems to have reopened for good as of December 2005. (If you ask me, they only kept closing it so they could keep staging Grand Reopenings every few years.)

Riccardo Chailly has been musical director since 2015, and if you ever doubted opera was art, a night at La Scala will help you transcend that.

The opera season opens December 7—the feast day of Milan's patron Sant'Ambrogio—with a who's-who of local, national, and international politicians and celebrities in attendance on opening night. Not that you or any other lowly member of the public cannot attend, too—though tickets for opening night at La Scala start at €100 ($117) (and climb quickly; the cheapest box seats are €500 ($584)!).

Tickets at La Scala

Tickets for performances of opera, ballet, and symphonic concerts at La Scala range €18 ($21) to 30 for the cheap seats (though you can get nosebleed day-of tickets for €9 ($11)–€15 ($18); see "Tips" below).

Better seats can range as high as €250 ($292)—or, for the famous opening night, €2 ($2),000.

La Scala’s Museum

Even if you don’t come for an opera (highly recommended), you can tour the Museo Teatrale alla Scala, where you can take a whiff of operatic nostalgia for days gone by amid such mementos as Toscanini's batons, a strand of Mozart's hair, a fine array of Callas postcards, original Verdi scores, a whole mess of historic gramophones and record players, and costumes designed by some of Milan's top fashion gurus and worn by the likes of Callas and Rudolf Nureyev on Las Scala's stage.

The museum entrance is at Largo Ghiringhelli 1

Photo gallery
  • , Opera at La Scala, Italy (Photo © Reid Brambeltt)
  • The line for last-minute tickets, Opera at La Scala, Italy (Photo © Reid Brambeltt)

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Free or reduced admission with a sightseeing card

Get into Opera at La Scala for free (and skip the line at the ticket booth) with:

» more on discounts & passes
Last-minute tickets at La Scala

You can get one of 140 last-minute tickets on the day of the performance for just €9 to €15 (or €50 for opening night… but good luck on that).

However, know that these “Galleria” seats are way up in the nosebleed upper tier, and can be rather obstructed. (You can watch the action happening way down on the stage on a phalanx of small flatscreen TVs to save craning your neck.)

The best way to do this is to show up at 1pm at the L’Accordo “Evening box office”—located at the end of the arcade to the left of La Scala’s main entrance, running down Via Filodrammatici—and put your name on the list.

You just get one ticket per person, so your entire party must be there to get their names on the list and get a number.

You then return at 5pm (for most operas; for matinees you just show up at noon and there is no list) to line up at the same office and wait for your name and number to be called, at which point you can turn in your number and collect your tickets.

If you didn’t get your name on that list, you can still show up at 5pm and get in line. Not everyone who puts their name on the list shows up to collect their tickets, and any unclaimed tickets will be sold—first-come, first-served—to the other folks in line. This does actually work. It is how, a few years back, I got to watch Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for just €11.