Composers Datebook®

Salieri opens La Scala


On today’s date in 1778, Italy’s most famous opera house opened with a performance of “L’Europa riconosciuta,” or “Europa revealed,” a work written specially for the occasion by Antonio Salieri. The new theater took its name from its location, previously occupied by the church of Santa Maria della Scala, which in turn was named after a Milanese nobelman’s wife, Beatrice della Scala.

These days Milan’s Teatro alla Scala—or “La Scala” for short—is still in operation, although today performances of Salieri operas are not as common as those of his 18th century rival, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

In the 19th century, La Scala was at the center of the golden age of Italian opera, which boasted the greatest works of Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi.

In August of 1943, 165 years after it opened, La Scala was damaged by Allied bombers as World War II drew to a close. The theater was repaired and reopened in 1946 with a series of gala concerts conducted by Arturo Toscanini.

Some sixty years later, the theater was newly refurbished and re-opened in December of 2004 with a gala production of the same Salieri opera written for its original opening some 226 years earlier.

Music Played in Today's Program

Antonio Salieri (1750 – 1825) Falstaff Overture London Mozart Players; Matthias Bamert, cond. Chandos 9877

On This Day


  • 1884 - Russian-born American composer Louis Gruenberg, near Brest-Litovsk (Julian date: July 22);

  • 1896 - Russian inventor Lev Sergeivitch Termen (anglicized to Leon Theremin) in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: August 15)


  • 1784 - Italian composer and teacher Giovanni Battista Martini, age 78, in Bologna; His students included Gluck, Mozart, Grétry, and Jommelli;


  • 1829 - Rossini: opera, "Guillaume Tell" (William Tell), at the Paris Opéra;

  • 1941 - Robert Russell Bennett: Symphony in D ("For the Dodgers"), in New York;

  • 1961 - John Cage: "Atlas Eclipticalis," at the "International Week of Today's Music," in Montréal;

  • 1967 - Lalo Schifrin: cantata, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" (adapted from the composer's filmscore) by the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, with Lawrence Foster conducting;


  • 1668 - German composer Dietrich Buxtehude marries the daughter of Franz Tunder, retiring organist at St. Mary's Church in Lübeck, as a condition to succeed Tunder in his position at St. Mary's; It is thought that both Handel and J.S. Bach were both interested in the position - but not in Tunder's daughter;

  • 1778 - Milan’s famous Teatro alla Scala (La Scala) opens with a performance of “L’Europa riconosciuta” by Italian opera composer Antonio Salieri, a work written specially for the occasion; The theater took its name from the site previously occupied by the church of Santa Maria della Scala (named after Bernabo Visconti’s wife, Beatrice della Scala); This same opera, conducted by Riccardo Muti, was performed on Dec. 7, 2004 at the Gala reopening of La Scala after three years of major renovation;

  • 1779 - Mozart finishes in Salzburg his "Posthorn" Serenade;

  • 1795 - The Paris Conservatory of Music is founded by the National Revolutionary Convention.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®