"La Scala" Theatre in the heart of Milan's historic city centre is the most important Italian Opera House and an emblem known and admired all over the world. It is where many of the most famous operas by the greatest nineteenth-century composers were first performed. The Theatre was built according to the desire of the Empress Maria Teresa of Austria after the old " Teatro Regio Ducale", Milan's traditional opera house, was destroyed by fire on the 26th of February 1776. Building costs were borne by the "Palchettisti" or box-holders in the Ducale Theatre in exchange for the concession of the site of the former Church of Santa Maria alla Scala" after which the Opera House was named and the renewal of the right to own a box in the new Theatre. The Theatre was designed by the distinguished Neoclassical architect Giuseppe Piermarini. It was officially opened on the 3rd of August 1778. Piermarini chose an Italian Style stage and seating area enclosed in a severely Neoclassical building. He chose granite for the high bossed plinthing of the façade and a pale stone known as Viggiù for the remaining Neoclassical frontage surmounted by a tympanum featuring a bas-relief of Apollo, protector of the Muses, and his Chariot. This great architect conceived his creation as a "stunning musical instrument" with exceptional acoustics. The Theatre was badly damaged by a fire bomb in August 1943. After the end of the war priority was given to the reconstruction of La Scala exactly as it was before. Arturo Toscanini conducted a memorable inaugural concert to celebrate the reopening in 1946. At first sight the Theatre may appear rather inconspicuous because it was designed to give onto a street rather than a piazza. Only on admiring the rich red velvety interior of the auditorium gleaming with gilded stuccowork, boasting extraordinarily effective acoustics can the Theatre's real splendour be appreciated. Under the vaulted ceiling there are 678 pit-stalls, four tiers of boxes and two galleries in a classic horseshoe shape. The stage is one of the largest in Italy with outstanding acoustic effects. Directly opposite the stage is the Royal Box. The Theatre's overall seating capacity can accommodate almost 3000 spectators. The original decoration was modified by Giovanni Perego in 1807 and enriched by Alessandro Sanquirico in 1830 with a décor using raised embossed gilt papier-maché decorations to ornament the box surrounds on ivory coloured laquered wooden parapets. The same designer went on to design the imposing centre ceiling chandelier renewed in 1860. In the nineteenth-century the Theatre was more richly and lavishly decorated and the famous mirror-lined foyer was modernized and made more functional in 1936. Recently the Scala Theatre has undergone radical restructuring and restoration work on both the interior and external parts of the building. In fact at the end of the 2000 - 2001 season the building was closed to the public and the following year the intervention aimed at thoroughly transforming and updating structures, various systems and all equipment in conformity with current safety laws and technological progress was set into motion. At the same time the interior underwent a thorough conservative restoration while maintaining its traditional characteristics. Renovation was officially begun on the 4th July 2002. Restoration and restructuring work went on until in October 2004 when the Theatre and the innovative newly constructed administration area were handed back to the "Fondazione Scala". Apart from the conservative restoration of the historic main body of the Piermarini auditorium, foyer and lobbies which was entrusted to Architect Elisabetta Fabbri, and the modernization of services, technological apparatus and devices in fact the most visible aspect of the renovated Scala is the impressive new volume of elliptical design providing space for numerous facilities and the Flytower which allows the modernization of the entire staging operation both designed by Mario Botta. The ellipsis is the area of the building overlooking via Filodrammatici housing dressing rooms, changing rooms, cloakrooms, offices, canteen and workrooms while the Flytower houses mechanical plant and apparatus for shifting scenery and rehearsal rooms for ballet, orchestra and chorus. The objective of renovation work was extraordinary maintenance but also to remove layers of wall coverings down to the original features and restore them to their original elegance as well as improving the already exceptional acoustics. Once again the boxes have their original flooring in terracotta tiles from Medone previously suffocated by fitted carpet. Where it proved necessary ruined tiles were replaced with handmade replicas. Along the corridors behind the boxes the Venetian "seminato" cotto flooring has been restored to its former glory, and the walls are yellow "marmorino" faux marble veining. A new kind of parquet created ad hoc guarantees better acoustics in all the seating areas. The traditional representative shade of "Scala" red has been preserved when materials have been renewed as has the antique gold of furnishings and decorations. Museo teatrale alla Scala (La Scala Theatre Museum): Most of the mementos displayed in this shrine to Opera are related to the history and fascinating tradition of La Scala. The Museum was founded in 1911 after a group of protagonists of Milanese cultural life bought the enormous collection of the Parisian antique dealer Giulio Sambon. Numerous donations and acquisitions were added to this initial nucleus over time making this rich historic collection one of the most envied in the world. The Museum documents the history of the Theatre over time by means of portraits, mementos, sculpture, musical scores, playbills among other interesting objects. It is a worthy tribute to the most important personalities of the world of music, ranging from Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini to Arturo Toscanini and Victor de Sabata.