By Giulia Segreti and Sara Rossi
MILAN (Reuters) - Rose petals, flowers and golden confetti showered the stage of the rarely-performed Italian opera 'Andrea Chenier' at La Scala's season premiere on Thursday.
Applause roared as the curtain fell on the last, emotional duet - sung by a real-life couple - followed by the bloody conclusion to the opera, set during the French Revolution.
'Bravo' echoed in Milan's eighteenth century theater as the main characters of the powerful, two-hour long performance took their bows. Members of the "Amici del Loggione" - a group of semi-professional critics who decide the success of the evening - popped confetti and threw petals and flower on stage as they acclaimed the singers.
"It was excellent," Gino Vezzini, president of the group, told Reuters at the end, noting how the performance had some cinema-like traits. He added that star soprano Anna Netrebko, who played young aristocrat Maddalena di Coigny - a role once played by diva Maria Callas - was "superlative".
Inspired by the French poet Andre Chenier, the emotional plot sees a love triangle between the artist, torn between politics and love, Maddalena and her servant-turn-revolutionary Gerard.
Its most famous aria, the dramatic 'La Mamma Morta' - or in English 'They killed my mother' - was featured in a scene of the U.S. movie 'Philadelphia'.
But star soprano Netrebko said it was the final duet between her and Chenier, played by her husband Yusif Eyvazov, that "says it all".
"It's glorious music, with lots of energy... it is emotional and very exciting," Netrebko said.
Though the production kept true to the original script, the stage included a rotating section allowing the flow of the intense scenes to be seamless.
"It's a magical night," principal dancer Roberto Bolle said.
But the Italian president and the country's prime minister, traditionally guests at the black-tie evening, were absent.
"This is a party for Milan," city mayor Giuseppe Sala said.
Chenier, of the Italian realism 'verismo' genre, is not frequently performed as its score includes a wide-ranging sound spectrum and requires the tones of the three performers to be balanced out and singers to move from conversation to high notes.
The opera, by composer Andrea Giordano, debuted in 1896 at La Scala. It was last staged in Milan 32 years ago, by the same director, Riccardo Chailly.
Chailly noted that 32 years was "a bit too much" for the much-loved opera to be missing from the stage.
Giordano's opera will be showing at Milan's opera house from Dec. 10 through Jan. 5.
(Editing by Toby Chopra)