June 5th 2016 has been circled in red sharpie on the calendar of many a music lover for months. A historical event will be taking place in two days in Milan: Riccardo Muti will be making his return to La Scala after over a decade of bitterness following his abrupt departure in 2005. The celebrated maestro will not, for the time being, resume his post on the podium of the most famous opera theatre in the world. In fact, his return will not be to the actual theatre, but to La Scala’s museum, for an exhibition celebrating his 19-year-long tenure as musical director of the celebrated institution. The exhibition will be a tribute to Riccardo Muti on his 75th birthday and it is rumoured by many to be but the first step on the path of reconciliation. The mere suggestion of Muti’s going back to La Scala, even for a single concert, if not for a whole opera, is enough to send any music lover into a frenzy. La Scala’s artistic director Alexander Pereira has recently been quoted to say that a single concert would not be enough for such a personality, thereby igniting the hopes of thousands of devoted fans.
The exhibition, curated by Lorenzo Arruga, will be an audiovisual journey through Muti’s residence at La Scala. The theatre’s library has been lined with black tulle, to serve as a canvas on which the maestro’s unique experience will be subdivided into sections. Each room will be dedicated to a composer or an aspect of Muti’s work, with plenty of photos, videos and recordings. The first room will be entirely dedicated to Mozart, with video testimonies of historical opera productions conducted by Muti, from the popular Da Ponte trilogy (Le Nozze Di Figaro, Così Fan Tutte and Don Giovanni) to The Magic Flute. Mozart has long been one of the maestro’s favourite composers. Verdi was equally relevant in Muti’s career and in particular during his time at La Scala. Videos and memorabilia from the maestro’s most celebrated productions of the Italian composer make up the theme for the second room of the exhibition. The third room focuses on Wagner‘s works and the fourth on the classical belcanto repertoire and the musical masterpieces of composers such as Paisiello, Spontini and Gluck. The visitors will be following this thematic path, ending in photographs from Muti’s production of Salieri’s L’Europa Riconosciuta, the unusual choice with which Muti chose to celebrate La Scala’s return to its first home in the square by the same name, after being moved to the newly constructed Teatro degli Arcimboldi in the late 90s, as the original theatre was undergoing restoration. This exhibition aims at offering a significant overview of Muti’s personality and human experience, bridging the gap between the audience and what is often perceived to be an imposing and forbidding character.
Riccardo Muti and La Scala
In April 2005, Riccardo Muti resigned his post as musical director of La Scala in a brusque, if not entirely unexpected move, after nearly two decades. The separation was far from painless and it came after the relationship between Muti and the theatre’s management and orchestra had been steadily deteriorating for quite some time. Muti’s last commitment with La Scala, scheduled before his resignation, was honoured and it marked his last time on the historical theatre’s podium. On that occasion, he conducted the Wiener Philharmoniker in Hayden’s symphony in G major and Aleksandr Skrjabin’s symphony n.3 Le divin poème. As it often happens in human relationships and – dare we say it – love stories, one struggles to recall the reasons of the kerfuffle. As it does not happen in human relationships, but it does happen in human organisms, nearly every cell in the body that we know as La Scala has now changed, which gives fans reasonable hope for a proper return of their favourite conductor to their favourite theatre.
The troubled times of european music
News of bridges being built and doors being opened constitute a much needed breath of fresh air, at a time when classical music and opera in Europe seem to be going through an unusually large rough patch. What seems to be a chronic lack of funding has been plaguing major musical institutions for the past years, with the crisis engulfing organisms that many thought to be safe. After several Italian orchestras have been dismantled or forced to reduce their yearly engagements, after the opera season at the Arena di Verona has been deemed at risk and after the European Union Youth Orchestra has been snatched back from the brink of abolition, Muti’s tentative return at La Scala is causing thousands of fans to breathe a sigh of relief.