Academy Award winner Sofia Coppola to direct first opera in Rome

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ROME (Reuters) - Academy Award winner Sofia Coppola will make her operatic debut in May, directing a new production of Giuseppe Verdi’s romantic tragedy “La Traviata”, Rome’s opera house said on Monday.

Coppola, who won the gold statuette for the screenplay of the 2003 film “Lost in Translation”, was invited to direct the production by its patron, fashion designer Valentino Garavani, the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma said in a statement.

Garavani asked the American film director and producer to swap screen for stage after watching her 2006 historical drama “Marie Antoinette”, in which the theater said she balanced “the classic and the modern”.

Rome’s opera house has long played second fiddle to its northern cousin, La Scala in Milan, and was plagued for years by financial losses, infighting and labor problems.

It finally returned to break even last year after cutting costs, accepting state funds and making peace with unions.

La Traviata will be supported by Garavani’s foundation, making it the latest in a string of artistic initiatives to receive private funding after public money for the arts dwindled during Italy’s three-year-long slump that ended in 2015.

Costumes will be designed by Garavani and the two designers who took over from him at the fashion house that still bears his first name. There will be 15 shows from May 24 to June 30.

Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Tom Heneghan