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La Scala scales back on productions

MILAN (AP) ― La Scala has reduced the number of operas it will stage during the 2013-14 season due to Italy’s economic crisis, the theater’s general manager said Thursday.

The program for next season announced by Stephane Lissner comprises 10 operas instead of the usual 13, and there will be just eight new productions among the 16 ballets and operas.

Lissner said the choices reflect “problems due both to the economic crisis and the constant decrease in public funding.” Italy’s unemployment rate has risen sharply to 11.5 percent and the economy is in a protracted recession.

La Scala’s 2012 budget was 116 million euros ($149 million), some 36 percent coming from government sources and the rest, some 73 million euros, from ticket and subscription revenue, sponsorships and tours.

The public theater only discovered well into the year that it would receive 5 million euros less in funding from the state, region and province ― money it had to recoup by tightening spending and cutting in half a variable payment made to La Scala’s musicians, singers and dancers. The theater had a balanced budget for the eighth consecutive year.

Lissner said he resisted suggestions of raising ticket prices or cutting back on rehearsals to deal with the budget crunch, but was forced to reduce the number of operas due to uncertainty in funding levels.

“La Scala is facing an important choice, which is essentially to defend the role of the public theater,” said Lissner, a Frenchman who will leave La Scala in 2015 to join the Paris Opera.

Lissner has appealed to the government to set a secure level of public funding for at least three years, but without result. La Scala does not yet know the level of funding each of the government entities will provide for 2013.

The 2013-14 includes three operas by Giuseppe Verdi, who made his La Scala his musical home, in honor of the bicentennial celebration of his birth on Oct. 10, 1813. The Dec. 7 gala season opener will be Verdi’s “Traviata” conducted by Daniele Gatti.

Daniel Barenboim, the theater’s musical director, will conduct a 2010 production of Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegro” featuring Placido Domingo, as well as Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” and Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Tsar’s Bride.”

La Scala also will do a month-long tour of Japan, presenting two operas, a ballet and two concerts conducted by Daniel Harding and Gustavo Dudamel over 17 evenings.