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Last Updated: Friday, 8 December 2006, 04:52 GMT
In pictures: Zeffirelli's Aida

Italian police outside La Scala

Italy's famous La Scala opera house has kicked off its season with a production of Verdi's Aida.

Scene from Aida

The production is directed by Franco Zeffirelli - returning to the Milan opera house after a 14-year absence.

Radames and Aida

Aida tells the story of Radames, the Egyptian commander who must choose between his love for the slave Aida and his loyalty to the Pharaoh.

Singers in Aida

Zeffirelli has claimed that it is the best production of the opera that La Scala has ever seen.

Scene from Aida

Some 200kg of gold dust went into Tutankhamen's mask which dominates the stage.

Amneris in Aida

Four hundred costumes have been created for the cast and 100 musicians are playing the score.

Donatella Versace and British actor Rupert Everett

Opening night attracted many VIPs, including Italian fashion house heiress Donatella Versace and British actor Rupert Everett.

(left to right) Romano Prodi, Angela Merkel and Milan's mayor Letizia Moratti

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (centre) attended the performance as the guest of Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. Here they join Milan's mayor Letizia Moratti.

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