The gallery offers better acoustics than the stalls or boxes. In Milan, connoisseurs of opera shun the latter two out of choice, not to save money. Seats in the gallery however mean waiting all day: you need to book your ticket in the morning and be present as they call you during the day. Those “up in the Gods” are the real judges of a performance: they whistle in protest during less than perfect renditions, if a tenor fails to hit the note in ‘Di quella pira’ in Il Trovatore, or directors who try too hard, caught up in a fusion of films and contemporary theatre, Martone’s Pagliacci in 2011, Emma Dante’s Carmen in 2015 and Salvatores’ La Gazza Ladra in 2017. Last year, the season in Milan was approved by the gallery and opened with Verdi’s Attila directed by Riccardo Chaily. This year it opens with Puccini’s Tosca, starring the baritone Luca Salsi as Scarpia. The opening night is a high-society affair, a mix of fashion and show biz, a middle-class institution. The presence of political figures leads to protests outside the theatre, in the late sixties the “sessantottini” were revolting against the bourgeoisie, today the anarchic “centri sociali” revolt against the power of the royal box. Red carpet lined with police in riot gear. While encore performances only have a formal dress code, the opening night still demands evening dress. Giorgio Armani is one of the patrons of the Scala. In 1947, together with his friend Giorgio Strehler, Paolo Grassi founded the Piccolo Teatro di Milano. Franco Parenti and Mario Feliciani both acted here, directors included Luca Ronconi, and performances ranged from arthouse comedies to the subversive monologues of Dario Fo and Franca Rame.
Today it has three theatres: Grassi, Strehler and Melato. The Grassi Theatre is still in the historic premises in Via Rovello, and the seats in the stalls are still the hard, uncomfortable ones from the forties. Piccolo shows travel the world, taking pieces of Milanese culture to other stages. From 1972 to 1977, Grassi was the superintendent at the Scala, where today Roberto Bolle, the primo ballerino, brings nature to the stage. In the center of Milan, next door to the Duomo, the Museo del Novecento opened in 2010. In the pictures by Lucio Fontana, flashes of darkness in mono-color spray paintings, in the sculptures of Boccioni and in the irreverent works of Piero Manzoni can be read the most virile aspect of the history of Milan’s culture. While men from Milan are collectively imagined as industrialists or bank managers, a short stay in this city will make you realize that they are actually intellectuals. The image of Giorgio Armani is a tale of leisurely conversations late at night after the theatre, about Via Bagutta and Carla Fracci, bookshops and tales of local economics, of publishing. Jackets in soft fabrics and gentle hues take the place of stiff masculine suits. Armani wants women to wear a jacket like men, yet still be female. He takes it to pieces and puts it back together, removing its structure, getting rid of padding and interlinings, changing the button layout and turning it into something close to a second skin that does not hide the figure and its sensuality. The result of a lifetime: the jacket that men wear to strengthen their personality becomes the garment for the woman who wants and can access the same opportunities as men. Wealthy Milanese ladies may be seduced by Rick Owens or Hermès prints, but they all own an Armani.
Linda Cantello oversees the Armani cosmetics collection. She is English and when she arrived in Milan she was struck by the earrings worn by its female inhabitants. A sketch, a freehand, intuitive drawing and Linda creates a soft pencil for both lips and cheeks. Monochromes, the ecrus found in the Armani Hotel and in the Armani Silos, Sketchers in the earthy shades of brown, beige, pink and plum. No difference between day and night. No strict dress codes. Even the idea of red lipstick to put on after dusk belongs to the past. Everything is soft, leisurely, suffused, padded inside the Milanese theatre. Maria Luisa Frisa, in the role of editor, has published the book The Radical Sex by Giusi Ferré, on the story of Armani. Frisa, intends to describe “la Milanese”: the style of a city can be seen in its architecture, in how its people live its streets, the women who inhabit it. The balance of light and color, of bourgeois interiors, the opening night at the Scala and informed femininity. Frisa has created a mood board like those she makes when organizing exhibitions: Milanese women are those in portraits by Leonardo and Hayez. In 1947, Luchino Visconti noted an assistant in the Galli pastry shop in Milan: her name was Lucia Bosé. After a beauty contest she acted in several neorealistic Italian films No Peace Under the Olive Tree by Giuseppe de Santis, The Story of a Love Afair by Antonioni and The Lady Without Camelias.
Frisa inserted her into her mood board, close to an advert from the sixties. Originally from Stresa, Valentina Cortese was directed by Fellini and Antonioni, and by Strehler. Her malaise is on Maria Luisa Frisa’s mood board. Paola Pivi, a student from the Brera Academy who moved to Alaska, loves to decontextualize: realistic images of animals look dreamlike once taken out of their natural setting. She creates habitats of feathers and pearls. The first Emporio Armani store—the brand’s second line for youngsters—opened its doors in 1981 in Milan, in the San Babila district: the stomping ground of the cool “paninari” from the eighties. In a social climate of hedonism and political non-alignment, where fashion becomes an escape route characterized by the flaunting of brands and logos. Tokyo and Milan have more in common that you might think: disciplined aesthetics and formal rigor. Armani Ginza Tower, architecture by Fuksas. Embodied by porcelain, but without that masked effect that Armani doesn’t like. Shaded pencil for Asian models to open up their eyes. Armani models have sculpted bodies and feed firmly on the ground. The way they move is called power walking in the fashion sector. In Milan they walk like that every day.