The theatre is a place of enchantment and reflection, art and sharing. A vehicle of emotions and culture, theatre is a form of expression that in turn has been able to create new forms of art and bring people at large closer to beauty, as well as creating social awareness. In Milan, the theatrical tradition is thriving and above all varied: the city’s diversity is an inexhaustible resource, and its theatres are no exception.
If La Scala is envied all over the world, there also are many other theatres in Milan that carry on the culture of performance arts with dedication. Each curtain lift testifies to the quality of Milanese theatre, which is also growing in popularity on an international scale. Which means that at the box office, season after season, there's sure to be something to accommodate everyone’s tastes. But let's take a look together at the most famous theatres in Milan.
Theatres in the city centre: Teatro Dal Verme, Litta, Manzoni, Nuovo and Piccolo Teatro Strehler
Among the historical theatres of Milan, one instantly thinks of Teatro Dal Verme. What started out as a refined opera house now offers a catalogue of concerts of classical and symphonic music, and sometimes even jazz and rock.
Teatro Litta is the oldest theatre in Milan still open to the public today. Gathering under the name of Manifatture Teatrali Milanesi, an artistic project that is keen on experimentation, it offers shows in the hall of the homonymous building, in the space La Cavallerizza and at Teatro Leonardo, in the Città studi area.
Teatro Nuovo, located in the heart of San Babila, mainly stages comedies and musicals, while the nearby Teatro Manzoni also hots cabarets and workshops with history as the theme subject. Think for example of the upcoming workshop that will be hosted by Italian art critic Vittorio Sgarbi, who will discuss Leonardo Da Vinci on the occasion of Leonardo 500, the rich cultural event born to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of the Renaissance genius.
Thanks to its far-sighted artistic direction, Piccolo Teatro Strehler is one of Milan's
true catalysts. The Piccolo's programme, which includes numerous cinematic events and cultural meetings, as well as prose and dance shows, takes place in three venues: the Piccolo Teatro Strehler, inaugurated in 1998; the historical venue of the Piccolo Teatro Grassi, and the experimental space of the Teatro Studio. In the midst of people’s renewed fondness for theatre, the Piccolo stands out for its successful combination of modernity and repertoire.
The Queen of Opera and Ballet: La Scala Theatre in Milan
La Scala, as the Milanese informally call the Teatro alla Scala, is the queen of Milanese theatres, the beating heart of opera and ballet. A place of art and elegance, a brewing pot of cultural promotion and events that attract young and old.
Designed by Piermarini at the behest of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, who also restored the building of the Palatine Schools in Piazza Mercanti and the Braidense Library at the University of Brera, La Scala has always been the most prestigious stage of Milan's theatre.
Bellini, Verdi, Puccini, Toscanini: after more than two centuries, La Scala is more majestic than ever and is a driving force behind the rebirth of Milan’s theatre scene, with a programme of over 280 events a year. Thanks to Milan for La Scala, a private foundation set up to promote education and training in the field of theatre and music, and to the Accademia Teatro alla Scala, theatre is once again an undisputed protagonist of Milan's cultural scene and its artistic future.
Porta Venezia and Porta Romana at the theatre: Teatro dell'Elfo, Carcano and Parenti
Corso Buenos Aires is not just for shopping and Porta Venezia is not just a neighborhood of hype clubs. Teatro dell'Elfo (Elfo Puccini) has been one of the main driving forces of Milanese culture since the 1930s and today is one of the main contemporary art theatres in Milan.
Porta Romana is also the site of two other institutions: Carcano and Franco Parenti. Since 1803, the Carcano Theatre has been home to one of the largest halls in the city. A vibrant place, especially in the 1980s, it continues to enjoy an excellent reputation today.
Active since the early 1970s and renovated in a completely new guise in 2008, Franco Parenti Theatre, with its eight rooms spread over three floors, is a vibrant artistic space, where contamination between the arts finds fertile ground.
The National Theatre, Arcimboldi and Teatro della Luna: pop-culture box office successes
One of the goals of modern theatre is to bring art closer to those who have never really considered it a true form of entertainment. Which is why theatres are increasingly used to host film adaptations, musicals or concerts.
The Arcimboldi Theatre is located in Bicocca, a district that is a symbol of the new Milan. Known for having hosted the TV edition of the Italian stand-up comedy show Zelig, its purely "pop" programme stand outs for the many concerts, screenings with live music, and musicals.
Similarly, the National Theatre, which reopened in 2009, besides hosting special event dinners and conferences, also hosts musicals of great appeal, such as the smash-hits Mamma Mia! Sister Act and Mary Poppins.
Teatro della Luna, located near the Mediolanum Forum in Assago, hosts the performances of the famous Cirque du Soleil, while Teatro Ciak hosts musicals such as The Divine Comedy or We Will Rock You.
From the auditorium to the spaces dedicated to stand-up comedy, there would be countless other locations to review and mention as part of this article. The rebirth of the theatre in Milan starts with the spectator’s involvement. And Italy's most bustling city proves to have an insatiable craving for entertainment: in fact, the call for tenders of the first NoLo Fringe Festival is about to end.
Inspired by the famous Fringe Festival, a veritable institution in Edinburgh, it will stage several shows in the halls of some shops in the NoLo district from June 3 to 9. The curtain is up: theatre in Milan is more alive than ever.