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Italy's La Scala to open conservatory in Saudi Arabia
Milan's La Scala opera house. Photo: Jean-Christophe Benoist /

MILAN (AFP).- Milan's prestigious La Scala is planning to open a conservatory for 600 children in the Saudi capital, media reported Thursday after the opera house agreed to refund three million euros ($3.4 million) to the kingdom.

The refund followed an outcry over a major funding deal which would have given Saudi Arabia a place on the board at La Scala.

The conservatory won the backing of the board of the La Scala Theatre's Academy Foundation chaired by Alexander Pereira, Il Sole 24 Ore reported.

La Scala could not be immediately contacted to confirm the reports.

The conservatory, which would be overseen by teachers from La Scala, was part of a broader deal Pereira had been negotiating with the culture ministry in Riyadh.

It would open in September and take in boys and girls aged six to 10 years old, media reports said.

The deal to use some 15 million euros in Saudi government funds for the historic theatre came under fire amid anger over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The October killing of the Washington Post contributor in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul sparked international outrage. Riyadh denies involvement and says the killing was carried out by rogue agents.

The deal could have seen Saudi culture minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah take up a seat on the board, according to reports.

© Agence France-Presse

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