Giulio Bertola, 87, who directed the choir at Italy's famed La Scala theater in 1983-91, died Sunday after a long illness, the opera house said Tuesday in Milan.

He directed the choir for eight La Scala opera premieres, including Verdi's

Guglielmo Tell

and Rossini's

I Vespri Siciliani

under artistic director Riccardo Muti.

Before joining La Scala, Bertola directed its choir for Muti's May 1983 concert for Pope John Paul II.

- AP