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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 December, 2004, 22:27 GMT
Opera returns to Milan's La Scala
Maestro Riccardo Muti and Desiree Rancatore take applause
The crowd applauded for 12 minutes and 15 curtain calls
Milan's world-famous La Scala opera house has re-opened after a three-year closure for renovation.

A sell-out crowd on Tuesday evening gave musical director Riccardo Muti and his singers 12 minutes of applause and 15 curtain calls.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi watched the production of Antonio Salieri's Europa Riconosciuta, the first opera staged at La Scala in 1778.

Screens were erected around Milan and roads near La Scala were sealed off.

Fashion giant Giorgio Armani attended the re-opening alongside legendary actress Sophia Loren.

Mr Armani described the opera as a special, sophisticated work, while Mr Berlusconi claimed a long-standing admiration for 18th century music.

The prime minister was among 1,000 VIPs invited to a post-performance party in a converted steel factory that now serves as a La Scala costume warehouse.

La Scala in Milan

Mr Muti, who had hailed Sunday's dress rehearsal of Salieri's work as a triumph, taking place amid a "party atmosphere", has championed the 18th-century composer.

He recently said Salieri, who fell on hard times after the original La Scala opening, should be regarded among the musical giants of his day.

Because the opera has not been performed since its original run, La Scala had to print the score for Europa Riconosciuta from scratch, working from the original manuscripts in its library.

The renovation work, carried out amid criticism and fear that the venue would be ruined, was done to improve the theatre's acoustics and ability to stage productions.

The stage was entirely re-constructed, making it possible, in theory, to stage three different operas on the same day.

The company take applause at La Scala's re-opening
Tickets for the re-opening fetched up to 2,000 euros (1,380)
The heavy red carpets in the hall were also removed, reportedly improving the theatre's sound.

Another modernising touch was the fitting of electronic displays behind each seat to allow the audience to follow the libretto in several languages.

This is not the first re-opening of La Scala. The theatre was destroyed by a bomb during World War II.

It was rebuilt in record time and re-opened in 1946 with a concert conducted by the legendary Arturo Toscanini.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The rich and famous turn out for La Scala's opening




SEE ALSO:
Glittering debut for new La Scala
07 Dec 04 |  Entertainment
Restoring the glory to La Scala
17 Jul 04 |  Entertainment
La Scala's restoration drama
02 Jan 03 |  Europe
La Scala renovation 'halted'
10 Dec 02 |  Entertainment
Milan's opera house to reopen
07 Feb 02 |  Entertainment
In pictures: Milan's La Scala
06 Dec 01 |  Entertainment


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