The opening night of the opera season at La Scala in Milan has been marked by scuffles between police and protesters angry at Italian government cuts, on the day the budget passed through parliament.
Riot police reacted violently as some among the students, culture workers and anarchists tried to break through the security barrier. Several people were injured.
Inside, there was a protest of a different kind.
Before launching into Wagner’s “The Valkyrie”, conductor Daniel Barenboim read out a statement expressing his concern for the future of culture in Italy and Europe.
For the audience, which included Italy’s president, the message rang out as loudly as the music.
Barenboim quoted the Italian constitution, saying the Republic was supposed to promote culture – the implication being that the Berlusconi government’s austerity measures were doing the exact opposite.