The Historical Archive of La Scala

The Historical Archive of La Scala

To preserve and make the most of its past, the Theatre has created an integrated management system for its heritage: La Scala DAM (Digital Asset Management), that represents the digital archive of all the available material, from the second decade of the Nineteen hundreds through to the present, in various archives, warehouses and safes.

This comprises at least 24,000 sketches and costume designs signed by great artists, including Jean Cocteau, Mario Sironi, Marino Marini, Renato Guttuso, Alberto Burri, Salvatore Fiume, Dino Buzzati, Piero Fornasetti, David Hockney, set designers and directors like Alessandro and Nicola Benois, Piero Zuffi, Lila de Nobili, Pierluigi Samaritani, Gregorio Sciltian, Luciano Damiani, Pier Luigi Pizzi, Ezio Frigerio, Robert Wilson, as well as sketches, drawings and models used for the creation of scenes and costumes, but which are works of art in their own right; 45,000 costumes produced by great fashion designers like Caramba, Emanuele Luzzati, Vera Marzot, Odette Nicoletti, Anna Anni, Franca Squarciapino, completed by 60,000 accessories including jewels, clothing, footwear, wigs and hats; 80,000 props.

The theatre’s activity is documented in 17,000 posters, and subsequent detailed chronologies, and in more than one million photographs taken from the stage, rehearsals and back-stage. They relate to performances by great singers, from Maria Callas to Joan Sutherland, from Renata Tebaldi to Giulietta Simionato, from Leyla Gencer to Mirella Freni, from Franco Corelli to Luciano Pavarotti, from Giuseppe Di Stefano to Mario Del Monaco, from Carlo Bergonzi to Plácido Domingo, from Tito Gobbi to Piero Cappuccilli, from Ettore Bastianini to Renato Bruson. Great conductors, from Toscanini to Guido Cantelli, from Victor De Sabata to Antonino Votto, from Herbert von Karajan to Carlos Kleiber, from Gianandrea Gavazzeni to Dimitri Mitropolus, from Carlo Maria Giulini to Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez. Great directors, from Benois to Pizzi, from Svoboda to Ronconi, from Strehler to Chéreau, from Ljubimov to Carsen. Great dancers and choreographers, from Ugo Dall’Ara to Mario Pistoni, from Rudolf Nureyev to Paolo Bortoluzzi, from Carla Fracci to Liliana Cosi, Luciana Savignano, Alessandra Ferri, through to Massimo Murru and Roberto Bolle.

The digital conversion work began in 1996 with the Salvage Project of the Sound Archive, which recovered circa 5000 tapes of La Scala recordings of operas, ballets and symphonic concerts from 1950 onwards. The handling of the tapes, the collection of the information and the transfer to digital media that is conserved in the Theatre’s musical archive were carried out in collaboration with LIM, Laboratory of Musical Information Technology of Milan’s Statale University, and enabled the recovery and conservation of circa 10 thousand hours of music.

Since 1998, the digitalisation project was extended with a modular process and provided the Theatre’s archive – particularly the costumes and accessories warehouse, the sketches and costume designs archive, the prop warehouse props, the photo and poster archive posters, - with a “bespoke’ IT application and all the necessary instruments for the conservation of the different material.

In 2006 La Scala DAM was connected with an intranet network to the Theatre’s key- workstations, providing for the internal departments the multimedia documentation of the material relating to the creation, production and documentation of every show: i.e. sketches and costume designs, costumes, footwear, jewellery, head-dress, props, fliers and posters, photographs and audio recordings, with the aim of supporting the everyday activities of every sector.

The management of this project was left to a young group, comprising a project manager, a technical manager and 5 operators. This was possible thanks to a “prototype of coproduction” in which, for the first time, alongside the relevant departments of the La Scala Theatre a contribution was provided by the Milano per la Scala Foundation, the Bosch Group, Researchers from the LIM of Milan’s Statale University, as well as a group of partners with an extremely high level of technological know-how like Accenture, Fastweb, Oracle, HP.

With ArchivioLaScala, the web page of the DAM Digital Archive, which is currently limited and simplified with regard to the enormous quantity of elements contained in the extended archive, the public of students or enthusiasts now has the opportunity to access an important part of the artistic heritage of La Scala through the website