Milan’s La Scala theatre opened its 2022-2023 opera season on 7th December with a gala performance of the Russian work “Boris Godunov”. Protestors demonstrated against the Ukrainian war outside the opera house.
The opera earned a 13-minute ovation from the audience which included Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, President Sergio Mattarella and the European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen.
Before the performance, Meloni said politics and culture should be kept separate. “We have nothing against the Russian people, against Russian history, against Russian culture. We are against the political choice of those who have invaded a sovereign nation.”
Her view was similarly expressed by Mattarella and von der Leyen. Speaking at a dinner with von der Leyen before the premiere, the Italian President gave his views on a row about putting on a Russian opera amid the Ukraine war and potentially handing a propaganda victory to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“These are views I do not share both on the cultural and political level,” said Mattarella. “Great Russian culture is an integral part of European culture. It is an element that cannot be cancelled.
“The responsibility for that war must be attributed to the government of that country and certainly not to the Russian people or to its culture”.
Around 20 people waved the Ukrainian flag and held up placards denouncing Putin for the invasion of Ukraine.
“Russia must be isolated. We want to be free,” said Tatiana Slyusarenko, who is originally from the Ukrainian town of Irpin.
“Russian culture only when the war is over,” read one of the placards.
Earlier, climate-change activists threw paint at the entrance to La Scala.