Peruvian tenor breaks La Scala encore taboo

Star Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez broke La Scala's tradition of no encores this week, repeating a showstopping aria from Gaetano Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment.

Star Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez broke La Scala's tradition of no encores this week, repeating a show-stopping aria fromGaetano Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment.

Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez, seen here in 2005, was the first soloist to break La Scala's no-encore tradition in nearly 75 years. ((Cesar Rangel/AFP/Getty))

Performing at the Milanese house on Tuesday, Florez delivered the first act solo aria Pour mon âme (popularly known among opera buffs as the "Ah mes amis" aria).

His performance met enthusiastic applause and calls of "again, again, again" from La Scala's infamously exacting audience, who in December sent French tenor Roberto Alagna storming off-stage amid boos and jeers.

Florez then relaunched into the song — best known for its infamous run of high Cs, and as one of the arias that helped Luciano Pavarotti earn the nickname "King of the high Cs."

His audacious move sent a few sparks around the opera world, where many companies follow a similar no-encores policy. One opera fan even blogged the event during intermission.

"OMG HE DID IT!" a young U.S. woman living in Milan posted on her opera chic blog Tuesday night.


According to La Scala spokesman Carlo Maria Cella, "the theatre recommended that he not do it, but in the end, it wasn't imposed like a dictate."

Toscanini forbade encores in 1921

In 1921, during his time heading La Scala, Arturo Toscanini forbade encores to preserve the continuity and integrity of the music and the entire production. He felt the focus should rest with the operarather than specifically on one or more of its singers.

The edict has since softened into more of a tradition,with a few rare exceptions to the no-encores stance, including when the now-departed, longtime conductor Riccardo Muti allowed the chorus an encore during a 1996 production of Nabucco.

Florez's encore this week was La Scala's first by a soloist in nearlythree-quarters of a century. The last came in 1933, when bass Fyodor Chaliapin complied with calls for an encore — reportedly while Toscanini was out of town.

The Peruvian opera superstar's encore was not a complete surprise. In an interview with Italian daily Corriere della sera before his performance, he said he would comply if the audience called for an encore, despite La Scala's tradition.

With files from the Associated Press