A host of personalities turned out in Milan for the launch of the new season at the famed La Scala opera house with a lavish Aida performance. Among them was German Chancellor Angela Merkel invited by Prime Minister Romano Prodi following a working lunch to discuss European integration, the Middle East and the Balkans. The return of director Franco Zeffirelli after more than 12 years was widely anticipated: online tickets were sold out in a record two hours. He had vowed to put on the Aida of Aida. It appears the black-tie crowd was more than pleased with the performance, which received an impressive 13 minutes’ ovation.