Franco Zeffirelli's new production of "Aida" took an unexpected turn on its second performance at La Scala, when tenor Roberto Alagna stunned the public and his colleagues by marching off the stage after the audience booed him.
"I do not deserve this kind of reception," an outraged Alagna was quoted as telling La Repubblica newspaper shortly after he walked off during Saturday night's performance.
Thursday night's opening had been one of the season's most-anticipated cultural events, and attracted an audience of leading political, business and cultural figures among them Italian Premier Romano Prodi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
That audience applauded for more than 15 minutes after the final curtain fell, standing to cheer Zeffirelli, conductor Riccardo Chailly and a cast led by the Lithuanian mezzo-soprano Violeta Urmana in the title role and Alagna as Radames.
But the second performance did not go quite as smoothly, reports AP.
Alagna came on stage and began singing. After a "nervous start," according to La Repubblica, Alagna started on the "Celeste Aida" aria, which immediately prompted a chorus of boos and whistles. Alagna stopped, looked at the audience, then walk off the stage, according to Italian news reports.
He was replaced seconds later by his understudy Antonello Palombi, who rushed on wearing jeans and continued the performance. La Scala general manager Stephane Lissner apologized to the audience before the opening of the third act.
"In many years at La Scala I had never seen anything like what happened tonight," Chailly told reporters after the performance.
No one answered the telephone at La Scala on Monday morning. The next performance was scheduled Tuesday night.