Argentina's Milei gets mixed reception during night at the opera

(Reuters) - Argentine presidential candidate Javier Milei stole the spotlight on Friday evening when his presence at Argentina's most prestigious opera house sparked a rowdy shouting match just before a polarizing election concludes on Sunday.

Milei, a radical libertarian whose social conservatism and promises to slash government spending have inspired both disdain and admiration, attended a production of Madame Butterfly with his girlfriend at Buenos Aires' ornate Teatro Colon.

It was not long before heckling erupted from opponents with supporters applauding in his defense, as the theater's famed acoustics amplified the impassioned jeers and cheers.

On Sunday, Argentines will choose between the right-wing Milei and current center-left Economy Minister Sergio Massa in a heated contest that has stoked political tensions in the midst of the worst economic crisis in over two decades.

"You're the dictatorship," some members of the crowd shouted, calling Milei "garbage."

Critics accuse Milei of downplaying atrocities during the country's brutal dictatorship from 1976-1983. Milei's running mate has defended military officers convicted of crimes against humanity.

The insults provoked cheers in Milei's defense, with video of the incident sweeping across social media.

The theater's director, Jorge Telerman, wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that he condemned the "expressions of intolerance" directed at Milei.

The presidential hopeful winked at the opera house brouhaha on X. "What a lovely work Madame Butterfly," he wrote.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Boyle, Editing by Franklin Paul)