Tycoon Kaoru Nakajima hires iconic Palermo opera for birthday bash

Kaoru Nakajima at New York Fashion Week in 2016
Kaoru Nakajima (right, in 2016) has been described as an eccentric billionaire who dabbles in music and writing

A Japanese tycoon has taken over many of the swankiest spots in the Sicilian city of Palermo for a decadent, days-long birthday party - reported to have cost hundreds of thousands of euros.

Billionaire Kaoru Nakajima has hired the city's top opera house and theatre - causing multiple performances to be rescheduled - and a whole luxury hotel.

Hundreds of guests have been invited to the extravagant celebration, which features a concert and banquet.

The bash has split opinions in Palermo.

The possible economic boost for Sicily - one of Italy's poorest regions - has been welcomed by some. Others are doubtful that ordinary people will benefit, and have voiced horror that the island's cultural gems can be hired in such a way.

Mr Nakajima, 73, has been described as an eccentric industrialist who made his fortune for US firm Amway - which sells health and beauty products - before dabbling in writing books and music.

Italian media reported that he first planned the event for his 70th birthday, but was scuppered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The world-famous Teatro Massimo - Italy's largest opera house which also appeared in The Godfather Part III - will host the main event on Sunday. A concert is scheduled, featuring Matteo Bocelli - son of tenor Andrea.

The venue was hired for €100,000 ($87,000), according to local site Palermo Today. For a further €35,000, the separate Teatro Politeama is said to have been booked for a whole week to allow the planning, execution and clear-up of a banquet.

The move necessitated the rescheduling of concerts, including by the Sicilian Symphony Orchestra.

Nakajima is also reported by the same site to have spent hundreds of thousands of euros booking every room in the five-star Villa Igiea hotel - which will be closely-guarded - as well as dozens more rooms at the Hotel delle Palme.

Regional president Renato Schifani said he could "only be happy" about the event, though said there was a "limit to everything" and voiced his fear that the extravaganza could set a precedent.

Speaking to the Adnkronos news agency, he also raised security concerns - saying he had only learned of the plans in the press, and just days before the arrival of "over 1,500 people within which... there may be important figures".

Nakajima is also expected to meet Palermo mayor Roberto Lagalla, who labelled Mr Schifani's concerns "excessive".

Palermo's Teatro Massimo
Italy's largest opera house, the Teatro Massimo, has been booked out - angering some locals