You need know nothing of opera to sense that La Scala is closer to a cathedral than an auditorium. Hearing opera sung in the magical setting of La Scala is an unparalleled experience. Here, Verdi established his reputation and Maria Callas sang her way into opera lore. It looms as a symbol—both for the performer who dreams of singing here and for the opera buff. Audiences are notoriously demanding and are apt to jeer performers who do not measure up.
If you are lucky enough to be here during the opera season, do whatever is necessary to attend. Tickets go on sale two months before the first performance and are usually sold out the same day. The season runs from December 7, the feast day of Milan patron Saint Ambrose, through June. For tickets, visit the Biglietteria Centrale (Galleria del Sagrato, Piazza Del Duomo, daily noon–6), which is in the Duomo subway station. Tickets are also available online or via La Scala's automated booking system (02/860775).
To pick up tickets for performances—from two hours prior until 15 minutes after the start of a performance—go to the box office at the theater, which is around the corner at Via Filodrammatici 2. Although you might not get seats for the more popular operas with big-name stars, it is worth trying; ballets are easier. There are also 140 tickets available on a first-come, first-served basis starting 2½ hours before the start of each performance at the theater box office. The theater is closed from the end of July through August and on national and local holidays.
At the Museo Teatrale alla Scala you can admire an extensive collection of librettos, paintings of the famous names of Italian opera, posters, costumes, antique instruments, and design sketches for the theater. It is also possible to take a look at the theater itself. Special exhibitions reflect current productions.