— La Scala, one of the world's most celebrated opera theaters, reopened to the public and to music this week after nearly three years of renovation.
"We achieved some sort of miracle by finishing work within the deadline. It's something that all Milanese must be proud of," said Milan deputy mayor Riccardo De Corato as the city celebrated the return of the Milan company. La Scala performances were held in Milan's modern Arcimboldi theater after renovation began in 2002.
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was expected to host several European leaders in the royal box for the gala evening, including Switzerland's President Joseph Diess and the prime ministers of Croatia, Bulgaria and Albania.
Italian glitterati from industrialists to big names in fashion and entertainment filled the orchestra seats and first tier loges. Milan's fashion king Giorgio Armani invited actress Sophia Loren to be his escort for the evening.
The area around the theater, a stone’s throw from Milan’s Gothic-style cathedral, was blocked off to traffic with more than 1,000 riot police guarding it against possible disturbances from anti-fur and other protesters. The theater's glamorous openings, with notables in top drawer attire - including sumptuous furs- has long been a forum for social protest.
The inauguration of the renewed La Scala comes on the feast of Milan’s patron saint, Ambrose, traditionally reserved for opening night, known here as "la prima." Thee holiday offered downtown Christmas shoppers a look at the theater's newly painted facade, decorated for the occasion with red roses and green foliage.
The 18th-centuryItheater was commissioned in 1773 by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, then ruler of Milan.
Large video screens were set up in Milan’s elegant passageway, the Galleria, opposite La Scala and inside the city's San Vittore prison as well as other places around town.
Maestro Riccardo Muti, who expressed enthusiasm about the new acoustics following a rehearsal Sunday for theater workers, chose Antonio Salieri's "Europa Riconosciuta" for the gala performance. The long-forgotten work by Mozart’s nemesis inaugurated the first opening night at La Scala in 1778.