ROME, December 7 (RIA Novosti's Sergei Startsev) - Russian Culture and Media Minister Alexander Sokolov has arrived in Milan to attend the reopening of the La Scala opera house after 912 days of renovation.

"I am here because this event is of global significance; La Scala's role as a center of the world operatic arts is very well known in Russia, " Mr Sokolov said in a telephone interview with the RIA news agency. In his view, the reopening of La Scala seems specially relevant to Russia now that it is embarking on projects to refurbish its own major music theaters-the Bolshoi, in Moscow, and the Mariinsky, in St. Petersburg.

Asked about prospects for cooperation between Russian opera companies and La Scala, Mr Sokolov said that every appearance of the Milan-based company at the Bolshoi had been a highlight of the season.

The Bolshoi company has also performed in Milan on more than one occasion, featuring a repertoire dominated by Russian operatic classics, the minister noted. Such exchange tours have now developed into a tradition, and Russia would like that tradition to be maintained, he said.

Mr Sokolov said the major opera companies of Russia and Italy could cooperate by reciprocally making their productions available for lease. This new practice is becoming increasingly popular with theater companies worldwide, he said, explaining that when a production is leased out, its original sets and scenography become material for assimilation by the target culture.

"It would be very tempting indeed to put on a collaboration with La Scala," Mr Sokolov said. "A short while ago, the Bolshoi Theater and the Bavarian Opera made a collaborative staging of [Richard] Wagner's 'The Flying Dutchman.' I will be happy if we manage to materialize similar plans with Milan's theater. But this is something yet to be discussed at our upcoming talks," the Russian minister said.

In keeping with tradition, La Scala's new performing season will feature several classical Russian operas. A production of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's "The Queen of Spades" plays here next February, with Yuri Temirkanov, of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, appearing as a guest conductor. And in the fall, another Russian opera, Tchaikovsky's "Cherevichki" (or "The Little Shoes") will be running in a Yuri Alexandrov version, with an all-Russian cast and a Russian orchestra conductor, Mstislav Rostropovich.

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