The theatre was founded, under the auspices of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, to replace the Royal Ducal Theatre, which was destroyed by fire on 25 February 1776 after a carnival gala, and had until then been the home of opera in Milan.
The new theatre was built on the former location of the church of Santa Maria alla Scala, from which the theatre gets its name. Designed by the great neoclassical architect Giuseppe Piermarini, La Scala opened on 3 August 1778 with Antonio Salieri’s opera L’Europa riconosciuta, to a libretto by Mattia Verazi. The theatre had a total of about 3,000 seats, arranged in six tiers of boxes. Its stage is one of the largest in Italy.
Most of Italy’s greatest operatic artists, and many of the finest singers from around the world, have appeared at La Scala. The theatre is regarded as one of the leading opera and ballet theatres in the world and is home to the La Scala Theatre Chorus, La Scala Theatre Ballet, La Scala Theatre Orchestra, and the Filarmonica della Scala orchestra. The theatre also has an associate school, known as the La Scala Theatre Academy, which offers professional training in music, dance, stage craft and stage management.