(AP) The dual bicentennial of the births of composers Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner is turning into a dueling bicentennial.
La Scala general manager Stephane Lissner on Monday dismissed as ridiculous criticism by the Italian media because the famed Milan opera house that was once Verdi's musical home is opening the celebratory season with Wagner's Lohengrin.
No less than Italy's respected President Giorgio Napolitano entered the fray. He wrote a letter to musical director Daniel Barenboim rejecting press rumors that he was snubbing the gala season opener on Friday.
Napolitano said he has state business to attend to in Rome, and called polemics over the staging of a Wagner opera futile and pathetic. He recalled attending a 1981 performance of Lohengrin at La Scala and welcomed its return after 30 years.