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Alexander Pereira to head Italy opera house La Scala from 2015

La Scala opera house is pictured during a snowfall in Milan December 7, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo
La Scala opera house is pictured during a snowfall in Milan December 7, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

MILAN (Reuters) - Alexander Pereira, the artistic director of the Salzburg Festival, will take over at the helm of Italy's best-known opera theatre La Scala in 2015, replacing current general manager Stephan Lissner who is moving to the Paris Opera after a decade in Milan.

In an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa, Pereira, 65, said he would have to "work like mad" in the post, although he will earn 25 percent less than his predecessor.

"For the first few months, I will be a sponge," Austrian-born Pereira said. "I need to learn, see what it's possible to do and how to do it."

Lissner earned 350 million euros ($458 million) a year as director, but his full benefits package, including a house, amounted to around one million euros, according to La Stampa.

Pereira, on the other hand, already has a house in Milan, because his 25 year-old girlfriend, Brazilian model Daniela Weisser de Sosa, studies fashion design in the city.

La Scala, owned by the cash-strapped city of Milan, is cutting back the number of productions on its roster in the 2013/14 season due to a decline in revenues.

Pereira is best-known for his 20-year stint as director of Zurich Opera House, where he successfully presented a seamless program of classic opera and contemporary production.

Milan mayor Giuliano Pisapia said late on Tuesday Pereira was "the person that we feel is right to enhance our jewel."

A polyglot who is fluent in Italian, Pereira started his career in tourism management and then worked for Italian computer company Olivetti for 12 years.

($1 = 0.7642 euros)

(Reporting by Lisa Jucca and Isla Binnie, editing by Paul Casciato)

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