Luxe shoemaker Tod's pledges latest aid to La Scala

MILAN, June 9 Fri Jun 10, 2011 2:12am EDT

Carabinieris are positioned in front of the La Scala Opera Theater in Milan December 7, 2007. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

Carabinieris are positioned in front of the La Scala Opera Theater in Milan December 7, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Alessandro Garofalo

MILAN, June 9 (Reuters Life!) - Luxury shoemaker Tod's pledged 5.2 million euros (£4.6 million) on Thursday to fund Milan's La Scala opera house and urged others in the private sector to come to the rescue of Italy's cash-starved cultural treasures.

Earlier this year, Tod's put 25 million euros on the table to fund the restoration of Rome's Colosseum.

Its chief executive said on Thursday he was trying to get other Italian businessmen together to fund the country's cultural heritage, whose funding is diminished in the age of fiscal austerity ushered in by a global financial crisis.

"Maybe in a few months we will be able to give some good news about other symbols of our country, like Pompeii, Venice and Florence," Diego della Valle said in a joint news conference with the director of the Milan opera house.

Della Valle declined to give more detail about the plan to sponsor more much-needed restorations around the country, but said it was the duty of companies whose sales benefit from Italy's artistic reputation to pitch in.

"With culture, some can eat, and even eat well," he said.

The Italian government has come in for criticism over culture cuts after the collapse of entire walls in Pompeii, the ancient Roman city buried by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. and a UNESCO world heritage site.

And even in Milan, Italy's economic capital, budget cuts from a debt-laden government have prompted cultural institutions such as La Scala to turn to the private sector to fund concerts, ballets and tours around the world.

The 233-year old institution has housed the premieres of timeless classics such as Giuseppe Verdi's "Nabucco" or Giacomo Puccini's "Turandot" and the concert opening its opera season each year on December 7 is one of the cultural world's most popular events.

But despite attracting about half a million visitors annually it has barely balanced the books in the last 5 years.

"In the last few years, funds from the government have fallen from 38 million euros to 30 million euros. We have lost 8 million euros from the state, out of a 118 million euro budget," Stephane Lisser, La Scala's artistic director, told Reuters.

The Frenchman said the Scala Foundation had unanimously approved Tod's application for a permanent donor seat. The luxury house will join other corporate donors including Telefonica and Generali.

(Reporting by Michel Rose, editing by Paul Casciato)