At the age of nine, after showing musical talent, Arturo Toscanini began to study cello and piano at the Parma Conservatory. In 1885, he began his career as a cellist with a traveling opera troupe. The following year, at age 19, on a trip to South America, he had his first experience as a conductor. Toscanini became artistic director at La Scala in Milan, the most important opera house in Italy. He integrated German, French, and Russian operas into the repertoire. In 1908, he traveled to the United States and astonished the Metropolitan Opera audience by conducting Wagner's Gotterdammerung entirely from memory. In 1929, he was appointed conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He refused to conduct the Italian Fascist anthem in 1922 and in 1931 and refused to appear in Germany after the rise of Hitler. From 1937-1954, Toscanini directed the National Broadcasting Company Symphony Orchestra, which NBC formed especially for him.