La Scala Cleans Up Asbestos

Builders have been forced to close the upper gallery of Milan’s La Scala opera house while they clear out asbestos discovered several weeks ago.

They’ve had to block off 270 seats and the venue is offering ticketholders upgrades to better seats or a full refund when available. The work is expected to be completed by the end of October.

La Scala was ordered a few years ago to pay damages to two stagehands who contracted asbestos-triggered diseases while employed by the theatre.

They came in contact with asbestos while handling fire-retardant material protecting stage curtains. The material was used decades ago and before Italian law banned the use of asbestos in materials nationwide.

In Italy, when asbestos is found in structures, it must be quickly put under protective cover to prevent dispersal of the fibers, which are hazardous to health. The asbestos can then be removed at a later date.

La Scala spokesman Carlo Maria Cella said the asbestos was found in December in a “very limited” section of the lighting area near the cornice of the vaulted ceiling. It was immediately sealed until removal could be carried out during the summer break.

The opera house counted on removal being completed during the summer closure, but Milan health agency officials requested more “mapping” of the entire area of the auditorium, slowing down the start of removal of the remaining asbestos.