Mention La Scala and the opera company immediately springs to mind but La Scala’s resident ballet company is prized in its own right as one of the greatest of its kind in the world. In November, Teatro alla Scala Ballet Company will come to Australia for the first time in its 240-year history, performing at QPAC for an exclusive Brisbane season.

The company will bring 75 dancers from the Company to perform two classic ballets – Giselle and Don Quixote, choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev (a production similar to the version he created for the Australian Ballet). They will be accompanied by international guest artists David Hallberg (Principal at American Ballet Theatre), Leonid Sarafanov (Principal at Mikhailovsky Theatre), and Maria Eichwald (Principal at Stuttgart Ballet).

Director Frédéric Olivieri with principal dancers Nicoletta Manni and Timofej Andrijashenko at QPAC this week. Photograph courtesy of QPAC

This week a group from La Scala visited Australia to visit the venue, discuss the forthcoming tour, and join community events in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney celebrating Italian National Day. They included Teatro alla Scala General Manager Maria Di Freda, Ballet Director Frédéric Olivieri, and Principal dancers Nicoletta Manni and Timofej Andrijashenko, who are a real-life couple.

Di Freda said that the original plan had been to bring both the opera and ballet company but that the idea proved too difficult at this point. “Hopefully we will bring the rest of La Scala one day,” she said.

“Teatro alla Scala Ballet Company is renowned for its great influence on dance in Europe; its precise artistic standards and the pristine technique of its dancers will be strikingly evident in the two iconic stage classics it is performing at QPAC,” said John Kotzas, QPAC’s Chief Executive.

Speaking to Limelight, Olivieri said of the choice of repertoire: “It is exactly right for the first time to come to Australia to present [these] two ballets  – a ballet romantic as Giselle because it is a very beautiful production not only for chorography by Yvette Chauviré but for set and costumes by Aleksandr Benois, and the company I must say it is almost near perfection [in this work]. And the Don Quixote from Nureyev is a msaterpiece. He loved the company and all the quality that the company have.”

Olivieri was full of praise for Italian dancer Manni and Latvian-born Andrijashenko, both of whom he thought so incredibly talented that he promoted them from corps de ballet straight to Principal – something we don’t see here.

Manni will dance both Giselle and Kitri in Don Quixote in the premiere of each work, partnering Hallberg in Giselle and Sarafanov in Don Quixote. Eichwald will partner another La Scala Principal, Claudio Coviello, in Giselle, while the rest of the casting is still be to announced.

The program has been arranged so that visitors can see both ballets in the final weekend. People in eight Queensland cities and towns will also be able to watch a free simulcast of Don Quixote live from QPAC’s Lyric Theatre on November 10.

Teatro alla Scala Ballet Company performs at QPAC November 7 – 18