Behind the scenes at La Scala: this is how Don Carlo was born

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The same goes for the costumes, all made in-house: «I worked in various theatres, including very prestigious ones, before joining La Scala ten years ago and I can say that the wealth of skills and abilities found here is truly unique», says Iavazzo.

It is a real production chain, small but of great excellence and efficiency, that takes place behind the scenes of the Piermarini, which is not only an institution recognized internationally for the quality of its orchestra, its choir or its dance troupe, but also for these artisanal and technical skills that it still cultivates internally, thanks to the work and experience of 150 employees including carpenters, blacksmiths, carpenters, set designers, set design technicians, sculptors, tailors and costume designers, capable to literally give shape to the ideas and visions of directors and masters of scenography and costumes, bringing them to the stage of La Scala.

Behind the scenes: how the costumes are born

Around 60 people work in the costume department, including laboratory costume designers and “dressing” tailors, those magicians who cut and sew, shorten and lengthen hems, tighten and widen corsets in just a few minutes, between one scene and another, to facilitate the performance of singers and dancers. 20 very specialized people work in the laboratories, divided into four teams; one for the men’s cut, one for the women’s cut, one for ballet and one that deals with emergencies. Then there is the millinery department, which makes hats and a costume processing department, the slightly more creative part, which deals with the aging of fabrics, jewelery and hairstyles. Finally, the internal laundry and the warehouse where all the costumes for the shows are kept, which can later be reused by the theater itself, or taken from the Scala Museum for exhibitions or, again, rented to other theatres.

«We always work on multiple productions at the same time, so it is difficult to say how long it takes to create the costumes for an opera – explains Iavazzo -. As for Don Carlo, we received the first sketches from Squarciapino in May. Then the whole research study began, since it was a work set in 1570, based on cutting manuals of the time, followed by a phase of adaptation and then research of materials.” Iavazzo cares a lot about this last phase because, he explains, «we try not to contribute to the havoc of fast fashion and therefore look for recycled fabrics and fabrics, often purchasing them from non-profit organizations or vintage wholesalers who guarantee respect for the environment and work».

Craftsmanship and technologies for the scenes

Around 90 people work in the scenery department, including artistic staff (set designers, painters and sculptors, divided into three teams), technicians and warehouse workers. «Everyone has a fundamental role – explains Finardi – and the dialogue between everyone is constant». It’s like entering a large artisan workshop, where the craft has been handed down for generations. «Obviously there have been many developments from a technological and show study point of view in recent decades, but the tradition has been handed down and is still preserved – says the head set designer -. For example, the painting of backdrops, which is considered by many to be an obsolete practice, we still do as the ancient masters did and we are among the few still able to do it.”

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