La Scala Opera Chooses New Leader

The head of Vienna’s State Opera will take over the Teatro alla Scala in Milan starting in 2021, the Italian opera house confirmed in an email on Monday.

Dominique Meyer, who is French and has been director of Vienna State Opera since 2010, has been celebrated for increasing revenue at the Austrian institution at a time when many opera houses are struggling. The Vienna State Opera sold more than 99 percent of tickets for its last season, which finished on Sunday, with sales of 37.7 million euros, about $43 million, Mr. Meyer said in a telephone interview on Monday.

Mr. Meyer’s appointment comes just weeks after Alexander Pereira, La Scala’s current artistic director and chief executive, was caught up in a scandal around fund-raising efforts involving the Saudi Arabian government.

Mr. Pereira had discussions with Saudi officials about possible projects in the country that later broadened to include a Saudi proposal that the kingdom’s culture minister would take a seat on La Scala’s board in return for an investment of at least €15 million over five years.

That potential appointment prompted heavy objection, with critics citing Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record. In June, La Scala said it was returning more than €3 million to the kingdom.

Mr. Meyer, 63, said he would not rule out seeking funding from foreign governments once he joined La Scala, but added, “I think there is other revenue.”

He said he did not want to go into detail about his plans for the theater before speaking with its existing employees — “A theater is not a building, it is a team,” he said. But he added that he wanted to extend its repertoire to include composers from Naples in the 18th century.

“Naples was the main place for opera then,” he said, mentioning composers such as Nicola Porpora and Leonardo Vinci. “There are many great, forgotten, unknown operas and I would like to revive some of them,” he said.

Mr. Meyer will initially work jointly with Mr. Pereira, who will stay at La Scala as artistic director until June 2021. Mr. Pereira has already planned the 2020-21 season and part of 2022.

Before joining the Vienna State Opera, Mr. Meyer was general and artistic director of the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris. He has also been the general director of the Paris Opera and the Lausanne Opera in Switzerland, as well as an adviser to French government ministers on cultural issues.

Mr. Meyer’s time in Vienna has not been without bumps. In 2014, the opera’s general music director, Franz Welser-Möst, resigned just days before that year’s season was due to begin. In a statement at the time, he cited “irreconcilable differences of opinion regarding the company’s artistic planning and profile” with Mr. Meyer.

In 2016, the Vienna State Opera announced that Mr. Meyer’s contract would not be renewed and that he would be replaced in 2020 by Bogdan Roscic, a Sony record executive with no experience of running an opera company.

Mr. Meyer said he still did not understand that decision. “But when you have to live close to politics, you accept that it is risky,” he said.

Alex Marshall is a European culture reporter, based in London. @alexmarshall81

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