Performing Arts in Milan: The Complete Guide

La Scala Milano

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Milan has for centuries been known as a destination for the performing arts. At least since the construction of La Scala, the city's legendary opera house and one of the most famous venues in the world, culturati have flocked to Milan for the world debuts of new works from the great masters of Italian opera.

Don't like opera? No problem: The performing arts in Milan go beyond La Scala. You can find theatres and other performance venues across the city that stage everything from contemporary, cutting-edge plays to massive rock concerts.

Famous Theatres in Milan

Whether you're in the mood for opera, ballet, or theatre, here's a list of the top performing arts venues in Milan, Italy.

La Scala (Opera, Music, and Ballet)

La Scala opened in 1778, with the debut of Antonio Salieri's "L'Europa Riconosciuta." Rossini, Puccini and Verdi have also introduced some of their works to the world on La Scala's stage. After it was destroyed in World War I, the theatre was rebuilt in the years afterward; now, it imparts an air of history and prestige thanks to its interior of rich red and gold tones, ornately decorated private box seats, and glittering chandeliers.

If you are at all interested in opera, you should try to plan your trip to Milan around a performance at La Scala. There are operatic performances mostly year-round, as the theatre is closed during the month of August. La Scala also stages ballet and classical music performances.

Tickets range from 24 euros for seats with obstructed views of the stage, to 210 euros (and much higher, depending on the performance) for orchestra-level seats. For tickets or touring information, visit La Scala's website.

Teatro Nuovo (Drama, Dance, Musical Comedy, and Concerts)

Opened in 1938 at the height of fascist rule in Italy, the Teatro Nuovo's design bears all the hallmarks of autocratic architecture—blocky, imposing, streamlined design that is relatively free of ornamentation. Interestingly enough, the theatre's founding director, Remigio Paone, was a staunch anti-fascist who staged works that were deemed too controversial for Mussolini's regime. Paone was forced into exile during World War II, but he returned to direct the theatre until his death in the 1970s. Today, Teatro Nuovo is still a venue for irreverent, satirical, and overtly political productions, as well as comedies, musicals, and opera performances. Tickets start at 10 or 40 euros, depending on the production. See the Teatro Nuovo website for details.

Auditorium di Milano Fondazione Cariplo (Symphonic and Choral Music)

Originally a 1930s cinema house, the Auditorium di Milano Fondazione Cariplo (Auditorium of Milan) has been the home of the Giuseppe Verdi Symphonic Orchestra and Choir of Milan since 1999. Today, it hosts a full calendar of symphonic and choral music; productions range from the classics (such as Verdi's Requiem Mass) to the contemporary, with symphonic tributes to Pink Floyd, the Beatles, and Queen. Tickets range start from 8–21 euros. See the La Verdi symphony website for more info.

Production at Il Piccolo Teatro
Il Piccolo Teatro/Giampiero Asumma

Il Piccolo Teatro (Drama and Dance)

Since it launched in the post-war years, Italy's first public playhouse has consistently staged some of Western theatre's most challenging works, from Euripides and Shakespeare to productions confronting Europe's immigrant crisis. Even though the performances are all in Italian, shows at Il Piccolo Teatro (the Little Theatre) are guaranteed to be daring and thought-provoking. Tickets are priced from 10–15 euros. See the website of Il Piccolo Teatro for details.

Teatro Fontana (Drama, Dance, and Music)

Contemporary theatrical productions that examine modern life take center stage at this theatre near the Isola quarter, north of the city center. Ticket prices range from 16–21 euros. Visit the Teatro Fontana website for details.

Teatro Manzoni (Drama and Cabaret)

Founded in 1850 as a theatre for dramatic plays, Teatro Manzoni was destroyed by Allied bombs in 1943. Rebuilt at a new location near La Scala, it reopened in 1950. The theatre today is a regal space for plays, variety shows, and musical performances. Tickets start at 17 euros, and parents can frequently find productions that will appeal to young children. See the Teatro Manzoni website for more information.

Teatro degli Arcimboldi (Musicals, Dance, Jazz, Pop, & Classical Music)

Since it served as the temporary home of La Scala during the famed opera house's three-year renovation, Teatro degli Acrimboldi has thrived. Its calendar features contemporary music and dance productions, including "The Nutcracker," "Priscilla," and "Queen of the Desert." Tickets start at around 30 euros. See the Teatro degli Arcimboldi website for details.

Blue Note Jazz Club
Blue Note Jazz Club/Ilaria Pretto

More Performance Venues in Milan

  • San Siro Stadium: The storied playing field of Milan soccer rivals A.C. Milan and F.C. Inter, San Siro Stadium is also the site of large-capacity rock concerts. Beyoncé, Bruce Springsteen, and The Rolling Stones have all performed here.
  • Magnolia: The indie, alternative, and EDM crowd flocks to this open-air venue east of Milan near Linate airport.
  • Magazzini Generali: With an industrial, dive-y vibe and plenty of room to dance, this bar is a favorite spot for young Milanese to hear live music and DJ sets.
  • Blue Note: The Milan outpost of the legendary New York City jazz club draws the same caliber of artists. There's also a restaurant on-site for those who want dinner and a show.
  • Alcatraz: This cavernous disco and concert hall hosts a mix of DJ nights and concerts given by well-known and underground bands. The Jesus and Mary Chain, Postmodern Jukebox, and Megadeath are all on the calendar.

Dress Code

If you're going to watch a theatre or classical performance, it's wise to err on the side of being too elegant, rather than being underdressed. In particular, tank tops and shorts are not permitted at La Scala. Casual attire is acceptable in most other places, however.

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