Milan’s Expo 2015 opens with Pope Francis

In live video message

Pope Francis will take part in the official opening of Expo 2015 on Friday 1 May with a live video connection from the Vatican, announced Expo commissioner Giuseppe Sala.

The world exposition will be launched in two phases, beginning this evening Thursday 30 May with celebrations in Milan’s iconic Piazza del Duomo.

Starting at 21.00, a concert with an international line-up of stars will celebrate the eve of the inauguration. Italy’s star tenor, Andrea Bocelli, will sing accompanied by the orchestra and chorus of the Teatro alla Scala, with a special appearance by award-winning Chinese pianist Lang Lang, named United Nations Messenger of Peace by Ban Ki-moon in 2013.

The concert will be broadcast live to the world on RAI’s Channel 1 from 21.15.

On Friday 1 May, the official opening ceremony will be held at 12.00 in the open-air theatre of the Rho fairground, with prime minister Matteo Renzi, Expo commissioner Giuseppe Sala and president of the Bureau International des Expositions, Ferdinand Nagy.

With a surprise announcement during an interview with RAI’s Tg1, Sala proudly told viewers that Pope Francis would take part in the ceremony with a video link from Rome.

The Pope has been closely following the preparations for Expo 2015, and during February’s Expo of Ideas, the conference drawing up the Milan Charter, he encouraged participants with a pre-recorded video message. “But this time it will be live,” Sala said.

Expo mascot Foodie in Piazza del Duomo

Kids who might be bored by speeches have not been forgotten: from 13.30, Disney Channel will broadcast a marathon re-run of all the episodes of Foody and his friends, the Expo cartoons which have been on air since 7 April.

Once the exposition has got under way, the celebrations will continue in the city centre at 18.00 as the sun sets with the festive ringing of the cathedral bells, followed progressively by the bells of churches all across Milan diocese, while the band of the Italian army will play a concert among the spires atop the Duomo.

At 21.30, visitors to the Duomo will be able to admire the completely renewed interior lighting. Throughout the day, every visitor will be able to light a candle at the main altar, gradually building up the light inside the iconic building until the new system – using power-saving LED lights – is turned on in the presence of Cardinal Archbishop Angelo Scola.

The festive day will close at La Scala with a performance of Puccini’s Turandot under the baton of Riccardo Chailly, the first in a programme of 122 opera evenings, 62 ballets and 88 concerts to celebrate Expo 2015.