Without the efforts of a small group of music lovers, this museum might never have existed. On 1st May 1911, the antique dealer, Jules Sambon, put up for auction his prestigious collection of memorabilia linked to the world of the theatre. A year earlier some of Milan’s most important figures met at the Teatro alla Scala: among these men were the librettist and composer, Arrigo Boito, the artist, Lodovico Pogliaghi, and the director of the Pinacoteca di Brera, Ettore Modigliani. Their purpose was to open a museum and the Sambon collection appeared to be the perfect starting point. But how were they to find the huge sum of Lire 450,000 that the antique dealer was asking?
The sum was raised thanks to the aid of the Italian State and the initiative of 50 citizens who organised a collection. It seemed that everything was ready, but Sambon rejected the offer: “a most powerful person whom I cannot name” wanted the collection. It was discovered that this mysterious person was J.P. Morgan, one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world. Against all odds, the men from Milan, sustained by the reputation of the Teatro alla Scala, were successful in convincing the tycoon to abandon the contest. On March 8, 1913, thanks to the acquisition of the collection, the Museo Teatrale alla Scala opened.
The Museum is actually located between via Filodrammatici and Piazza della Scala, in a lateral wing of the historic building designed by Giuseppe Piermarini. The current construction, dating back to 1831, was designed by Giacomo Tazzini and replaced the so-called “Casino dei Nobili”, built according to Piermarini’s design at the same time as La Scala. This complex is still known today as “Casino Ricordi”. Indeed, the famous music publishing house was located here for many years.