Europe

Italian cuts trigger protests at La Scala opening night

A demonstrator holds a flare during a protest in front of La Scala opera house on the first day of opera season in downtown Milan (7 December 2014) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The demonstrators threw flares, eggs and vegetables at riot police

Scuffles have broken out outside Italy's La Scala opera house in Milan during a protest against labour market reforms and austerity measures.

The disturbances took place as Daniel Barenboim celebrated his last gala season opener as music director of La Scala on Sunday.

He brought the orchestra on stage to bask in a prolonged standing ovation.

La Scala's opening performance, which this year was Beethoven's Fidelio, is a highlight of Italy's cultural year.

Wealthy guests

It is often attended by top sportsmen, politicians and businessmen, although this year Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and President Giorgio Napolitano stayed away.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Italy's recession has stretched the finances at the famous Milan opera house, whose managers made several appeals to sponsors ahead of the opening
Image copyright AP
Image caption The protesters were kept away from the front of the famous opera house
Image copyright AP
Image caption The protests did not stop theatre-goers from enjoying a lavish opening performance
Image copyright AP
Image caption At the end of the performance of Fidelio the cast received an extended ovation

As the performance began, protesters a few streets away threw flares, eggs and vegetables at riot police, who prevented them from getting too close to the 18th century theatre.

Wealthy guests - some paying as much 2,000 euros ($2,460) for a ticket - were jeered as they entered the building.

The protesters were upset about changes to labour laws which make it easier to dismiss workers.

Two police officers were reported to have been injured by flares and petrol bombs thrown by the protesters.

Argentinean-born Israeli conductor Mr Barenboim will leave La Scala at the end of this year.

Correspondents say that Italy's economic downturn has hit finances of the country's best known opera house.

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