La Scala opera in Milan has opened its new 2018-19 season, always a much-anticipated cultural event, and protesters were on hand outside, before and during the arrivals, to chant slogans against Italy's deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini.
Salvini wasn't present, but Italy's president was, making his first season-opening appearance at La Scala. It was noted President Mattarella attended even as Italy's budget was going through parliament.
On the menu was Verdi's "Attila", about the fifth century conquest of Rome, a notoriously difficult opera to sing.
"Without 4 singers of this level, it would be impossible to do Attila, and moreover, I have said, that Ildar Abdrazakov, who sang this opera all over the world, she should be our principal interpreter," said Musical Director Riccardo Chailly.
Stage Director Davide Livermore used the occasion to mount a spirited defence of the arts in general, and opera in particular.
"Opera is the "combination" of all the arts at the same time and means our culture, so celebrate all the arts means celebrate our culture, means create memory and identity," he said. "We have to realize the value that we have in all the opera theatres in Italy, in all the theatres, in the museums, and we mustn't lose this extraordinary chance because otherwise if we only go with the wikipedia-world, I don't know where we are going now".
The audience loved the performance, giving the conductor and cast a 14-minute standing ovation at the curtain.