The Massimo Theater designed by Basile opened its doors to the public on the evening of May 16 1897. The large volume of trade and industry meant that Palermo had developed interests of European dimension. It was the beginning of the Belle Epoque a time of cultural rebirth and economic prosperity interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War. As a consequence the new building was built to impress. At the time of completion The Massimo was the second largest theater in Europe after the Paris Opera. The opening night was a huge success, and for the entire season tickets were sold out. The presence of fantastic sponsors such as Ignazio Florio ensured major international resonance. Palermo in those years, thanks to the Florio, was a European capital, and frequently hosted crowned heads from all over the world. The Teatro Massimo opera remained active for 77 years until 1974, when a fire broke next door and the theater was closed "temporarily." The theater reopened 22 years later with great emotion and participation.