Class war in Milan as riot police called in to deal with left-wing activists outside La Scala opera house

La Scala, an exclusive social club for Milan’s aristocracy and captains of industry, has always invited the opprobrium of left-wing activists

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The Independent Online

Far-left protesters in motorcycle helmets clashed with riot police outside La Scala in Milan last night, bringing an element of class war to a glittering gala.

Before the first night of Beethoven’s Fidelio, up to 1,000 policemen were employed to protect the audience. La Scala, an exclusive social club for Milan’s aristocracy and captains of industry, has always invited the opprobrium of left-wing activists. With the risk of violence this year fuelled by controversial labour reforms and surging unemployment in the city, the  authorities took the unusual step of closing roads around the theatre.

Shortly before the performance began at 6pm, protesters threw gas canisters and eggs, before being pushed back with a baton charge by riot police. At least two protesters needed treatment for head injuries.

Christine Lagarde of the IMF, Italy’s Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, and senate president Pietro Grasso were among the guests.

Far-left and anarchist groups had been making threatening comments in the run-up to the opening night, with “See you on 7/12” sprayed on walls after a series of recent evictions from Milan social centres such as Zam and Rosa Nera.

One of the flyers doing the rounds in the past few days said: “Masters and rulers will be at the Scala to celebrate the riches accumulated at our expense over a year: a display of limousines, Rolexes and fur coats.”

With tickets for the gala night – one of the top events in the social calendar – changing hands for thousands of euros, it is an event for the very few.

This season’s staging of Fidelio marks Daniel Barenboim’s final opening night as musical director in Milan.

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