La Scala is one of the most famous opera houses in the world, and very popular among both visitors and well- heeled Milanese. The main hall is an almost impossible confection of plush upholstery and chandeliers, where ladies in furs rub shoulders with tourists and the occasional member of Milan’s flashy fashion set.
The best way to see La Scala – for us, anyway – is to see it in action. There are productions throughout the year including opera and ballet, from traditional to contemporary. If you want a real taste of Milanese high society, this is the place.
Ticket prices vary, but as a rule of thumb the better seats will cost around the €150 mark. This buys you either a seat in the stalls or at the front of one of the (very plush) balconies.
We went to see a ballet on a Saturday evening in January, having bought a couple of the cheaper tickets for about £150 for two people.
You are ushered to your booth by stewards dressed in traditional robes, and for each balcony of 4-6 people there is a little private cloakroom with coathooks and mirrors (presumably for rearranging your furs in the way out).
The balcony itself is cosy. There are two chairs pressed up at the front and two stools at the back (aka the cheap seats). It’s difficult to see how la Scala can justify even selling the stools as seats, as the view is extremely limited, much more so than appeared on the website preview. From the seats we booked, we would have been able to see no more than 25% of the stage space, perhaps a little more if we had stood and craned over the people on the front two seats.
As it happened, we had a stroke of luck. The more expensive front seats in our balcony were empty, so it turned out that we had an unobstructed view.
So which seats should you book at La Scala?
For us, going to La Scala was a rare treat and having a good view from the front seats really made this a night to remember. However, if we had stayed in the second row, it would have been petty much pointless for us.
You could either bite the bullet and buy an expensive seat straight off. This is the best way to guarantee that you get to see your opera/ballet of choice.
If there is good availability, you can book last minute. This means you get a 25% discount on your seat, meaning that a €150 seat will cost you €112.50, although you do run the risk of tickets selling out.
The last way is to book cheaper seats and hope that you get lucky. This would probably work best by booking the rear two seats in a four seater balcony, and hope that the two front seats don’t get filled. Obviously the closer you can do this to the date of your visit, the better you can judge how full the opera house will be on the day.
If you have any desire to see what’s going on, we would not recommend buying seats in the second rows of the balconies.