La Scala ousts general director after first season in latest melodrama to roil opera house

The Associated Press

Milan's mayor and La Scala board chairman Giuliano Pisapia speaks during a news conference in Milan, Italy, Thursday, May 15, 2014. The board of La Scala voted Thursday to oust its incoming general director at the end of his first season in the latest behind-the-scenes melodrama to roil the fabled opera house. Salzburg Festival director Alexander Pereira had been given a five-season contract. But the board voted to oust him after the upcoming 2014-2015 season amid allegations of a conflict of interest. La Scala board chairman Giuliano Pisapia said Pereira overreached his powers by making a deal for La Scala to buy four operas from the Salzburg Festival, where he is still director, before officially assuming his role in La Scala on Oct. 1. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Associated Press + More

By COLLEEN BARRY, Associated Press

MILAN (AP) — The board of La Scala voted Thursday to oust its incoming general director at the end of his first season in the latest behind-the-scenes melodrama to roil the fabled opera house.

Salzburg Festival director Alexander Pereira had been given a five-season contract, but the board voted to oust him after the upcoming 2014-2015 season amid allegations of a conflict of interest.

La Scala board chairman Giuliano Pisapia said Pereira overreached his powers by making a deal for La Scala to buy four operas from the Salzburg Festival, where he is still director, before officially assuming his role in La Scala on Oct. 1.

"Pereira without a doubt went beyond his powers," Pisapia told reporters.

Pereira, who spent two decades at the Zurich Opera before heading to Salzburg in 2011, has said he was following common practices in transition periods for European theaters.

Not since Ricardo Muti was pushed out as musical director in a worker mutiny nearly a decade ago has there been so much turmoil in La Scala's ranks. The controversy risks damaging La Scala's prestige just as Milan prepares to host Expo 2015, the world fair that will feature a concert series at La Scala.

Pereira's curtailed tenure could have consequences for La Scala's musical direction. Pereira had already brought on Riccardo Chailly, replacing Daniel Barenboim in the role of musical director. Barenboim bowed out two years early to make way for Pereira's choice.

Pereira, 66, was named last June to replace Frenchman Stephan Lissner, who departs Sept. 1 for the Paris Opera after nine seasons at La Scala. Pereira has been working at La Scala in the intervening period, as Lissner has been working on his transition into the Paris Opera.

The La Scala board has sent Pereira a letter outlining its terms, that he direct the upcoming season that opens Dec. 7 and that he agrees to step down on Dec. 31, 2015.

Pereira has not yet responded to the letter.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.