The man once dubbed "the world's most powerful conductor", Claudio Abbado, died on Tuesday at the age of 80.
The Italian decided to become a conductor after hearing a concert at La Scala at the age of eight.
He went on to lead the Milan opera company and top orchestras around the world for more than half a century.
Abbado, who was known as a musician's musician, shunned the pomp often associated with leading conductors and staunchly supported young musicians.
During his time at La Scala, he rejigged the usually staid repertory and encouraged young people and less wealthy music lovers to join the well-heeled crowd.
Abbado died in the Italian city of Bologna after a long illness.
La Scala's current musical director, Daniel Barenboim, said the world had lost one of the greatest musicians of the last 50 years.