By Sara Rossi
MILAN (Reuters) - "Tosca", Giacomo Puccini's opera about a diva prepared to do anything for love, was given a cinematic flavor as it opened La Scala's season for the first time, winning a 16-minute ovation and a stage strewn with flowers from the audience on Saturday.
Director Davide Livermore thrilled spectators with special effects. Sections of the stage moved up and down and rotated. Sets depicted the Sant'Andrea della Valle church, Palazzo Farnese and Castel Sant'Angelo, three architectural masterpieces in Rome. Riccardo Chailly conducted.
The audience included Italy's President Sergio Mattarella, who was welcomed with warm applause, as well as several government ministers and celebrities including the American singer Patti Smith.
"Puccini is one of my favorite composers. I love Tosca's strength," said fashion designer Domenico Dolce.
The opera, based on the story by French playwright Victorien Sardou and set in 1800, had its debut in Rome in January 1900. It tells the story of the singer Floria Tosca, her lover Mario Cavaradossi and the cruel Baron Scarpia, a police chief Tosca kills while trying to escape his harassment.
Russian soprano Anna Netrebko enchanted the audience with a passionate Tosca, a role once sung by the diva Maria Callas, while tenor Francesco Meli was a moving Cavaradossi. Baritone Luca Salsi played Baron Scarpia, a character he calls "as insidious as a rattlesnake".
This year's season opening was the last for the theatre's outgoing artistic director Alexander Pereira, who will be replaced by Frenchman Dominique Meyer.
The opera will be performed at La Scala until Jan. 8.
(Editing by Peter Graff)