A nineteenth-century depiction of the Teatro alla Scala in the Piazza della Scala, Milan.  Though heavily damaged by Allied bombs during World War II, the theatre has never been destroyed by fire.

On this day in theatre history–August 3, 1778–the great “La Scala” opera house first opened its doors in Milan, Italy.  As was common in those days, Italian opera houses were multi-purpose facilities, providing a wide range of entertainments.  One of the more popular elements included in many opera houses of the day was a casino.  Before, after, and even during the performance on stage, audience members could slip out to the foyer and gamble.  Of course, the word “casino” was also an 18th century Italian euphemism for bordello, adding even greater dimension to the structure’s purpose.  Thus, the great “La Scala,” opera house, gambling den, and bordello, opened its doors on this very day in theatre history.  Honestly, who knew opera could be so much fun?

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