The Teatro alla Scala opera house in Milan will open for the 2005-2006 season, at 18.00 on 7 December, (the feast of the citys patron saint, S. Ambrogio) with a production of Idomeneo King of Crete by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The event is attracting an unusual amount of attention because it will be the first time for 19 years that Riccardo Muti will not be conducting on the first night of the season. Muti resigned as musical director at La Scala in April of this year, following disputes between the top management and the opera house staff.

The newly appointed opera house superintendent, Stefane Lissner from France, has called in 30 year-old English conductor Daniel Harding to direct this opera, La Scalas youngest first-night conductor ever. He has an international cast, many of them not well known in Italy, who will sing the principle roles; tenor Steve Davislim from Australia will take the lead as Idomeneo with British soprano Emma Bell as Elettra and Camilla Tilling from Sweden as Ilia.

As always, a glittering first night audience is expected; this year it will be led by the president of the republic, Carlo Azegli Ciampi and his wife Franca. The first night tickets, which cost from 100-2,000 each have all been sold.