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La Scala Opera Bringing Second Tour To Japan

August 26, 1988

TOKYO (AP) _ Equipment trucks caused massive traffic jams and craftsmen spent a week of sleepless nights setting up, but the La Scala opera company of Italy is ready to open its second tour of Japan, its director said Friday.

The Milan-based troupe opens Thursday in Tokyo in an expensive tour that director Carlo Maria Bandini hopes will promote Italian opera culture throughout Japan.

″In Europe almost all theaters are state-run, with considerable support coming from the government,″ Bandini said at a news conference. ″If only the Japanese music scene could receive more assistance from the state.″

The month-long, 16-performance tour includes renditions of Verdi’s ″Nabucco,″ ″I Capulet E I Montecchi″ by Bellini, and Puccini’s ″La Boheme″ and ″Turandot.″

Noted conductors Riccardo Muti, Carlos Kleiber and Lorin Maazel are conducting the operas. The casts are led by baritone Renato Bruson, tenor Peter Dvorsky, bass Paul Plishka, and sopranos Mirella Freni, Ghena Dimitrova and Galia Savova. Film director Franco Zeffirelli designed the sets for ″La Boheme″ and ″Turandot.″

″Teatro Alla Scala,″ known for the grandeur of its huge sets, sent more than 63 containers of sets, props and equipment that along with instruments and other supplies required 150 trucks.

″When they delivered their loads from Yokohama to Tokyo they caused a massive traffic jam,″ said Tadatsugu Sasaki, director of the Japan Performing Arts Foundation, the tour’s promoter. ″It’s taking 900 people to set everything up.″

Most of the performances will be in two halls in Tokyo, with two performances in Osaka and one in Yokohama.

The performing arts foundation flew more than 550 performers, musicians and machinists from Italy, housing them, paying part of their salaries and giving each a daily allowance of about $200.

It is also hiring about 200 extras from the local foreign community to fill out crowd scenes.

The tour is costing the promoter about $16.5 million, said Sasaki. But the yen’s dramatic rise means this is 2.2 billion yen today, compared with 4 billion yen three years ago.

Still, Sasaki says he expects to take a loss. ″We expect to cover only 1 billion yen ($7.5 million) of the cost through ticket sales,″ he said. ″We’ll try to cover the rest from La Scala and some kind of assistance from arts foundations and such.″

Unlike most operas and musicals that tour Japan, La Scala is not receiving Japanese corporate sponsorship.

Offers came from ″seven firms ranging from a pharmaceutical producer to a company that makes rice cookers,″ Sasaki said. ″But I didn’t want a firm to utilize culture just for their own publicity or to improve their image.″

In Milan, ticket sales cover about 30 percent of the cost and the government pays the rest, Bandini said. Opening night tickets back home go for $750, but the top tickets usually are about $150, he said.

Tickets for the Japan performances cost from $90 to $263. If they cost any more, people could not afford to come, he said.

″The Cultural Affairs Agency is not contributing a single yen,″ Sasaki said. ″But they sure are asking for a lot of complimentary tickets.″

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