As far as historic opera openings go, Milan’s La Scala has had a fair share of premieres: Puccini debuted “Madama Butterfly” there in 1904 and “Turandot” in 1926, while Verdi held the first performance of “Otello” there in 1926. But a reputation for being one of the most storied theaters in the world isn’t enough to guarantee public funding. With declining government spending on the arts in Italy, the grand opera house is what artistic director Stephane Lissner called “in danger” of becoming a private entity.
This could mean that Tod’s president and CEO, Diego Della Valle — who is a member of the La Scala Foundation, which provides private contributions to the theater — could take control of a new cultural cause, reports WWD. State contributions to the theater have decreased drastically over the last 15 years. The government provided 61 percent of La Scala’s funding in 1998. Last year the percentage dropped to 47 percent. This year that number dwindled to 37.5 percent. The drop could allow for Della Valle and the La Scala Foundation to increase their funding and take on bigger roles in running the theater.
This isn’t Della Valle’s first cultural cause. In December 2010 Della Valle and Tod’s announced a $36.5 million donation to rebuild Italy’s most famous ancient relic, the Colosseum, to much controversy. Critics like Codacons, the national consumer protection agency, and the national antitrust authority vehemently opposed the deal when reports surfaced that the country also signed over usage rights of the monument and its image to the luxury leather goods company. But Della Valle maintained in official documents that Tod’s has a “firm commitment not to utilize the rights set forth in the agreement for any commercial purposes.”
Fashion has been a longtime supporter of rebuilding Italian ruins. Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton have contributed funding to restore old cathedrals and palazzos in the past. Della Valle has mentioned that he would try and get his friends to help freshen up the country’s crumbling relics. It would be fitting for fashion brands to step in and contribute to the opera house, considering the longstanding line of fashion designers who have worked on opera collaborations. We wonder if Prada, Versace, and Chanel (all have designed opera costumes) will pitch in. We just hope La Scala administrators don’t take the same path as artist and curator Antonio Manfredi, who has been torching paintings to protest underfunding of Italian art and increase public awareness of the need raise money.