La Scala

The Teatro alla Scala is the world's most famous opera house. Many of the operas of Rossini, Bellini, Verdi and Puccini were first performed here, and all of the greatest opera-singers – Enrico Caruso, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Tito Gobbi, Maria Callas, Luciano Pavarotti, Jessye Norman – have graced its stage and gloried in the near-perfect acoustics of its spectacular auditorium.

This can be a famously daunting experience: as the American soprano Renée Fleming put it (having found herself booed), the Italian audience treat opera like a kind of 'blood sport'.

La Scala is also famed for its productions of ballet. The current theatre was originally built in 1776–8, and re-emerged from three years of restoration in 2004. It gets its name (literally 'The Stairs') from the church formerly on the site, Santa Maria alla Scala.

Opera aficionados will want to book a performance ahead of their visit. Failing this, La Scala has its own theatre museum, which also offers a view into the auditorium.

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