Mutiny at La Scala

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JIWON: While following the “La Voce del Loggione,” I realized that Muti scandal was such a big issue, but most information was kicked out of their blog. I couldn’t’ understand the basic reason why even the orchestra members joined the mutiny. So, I went to the Google Group. Unfortunately, Muti’s letter to Corriere della Sera was the only valuable source I could pick up, so I had to go further. (December 5, 2004) La Scala Proudly Emerges From a Drama of Its Own : the mayor of Milan decided that renovation of the Teatro Alla Scala would require it to close for three years. (…) “I (Fontana) didn’t listen to other opinions. The mayor shared my view and we went ahead.” (…) (December 9, 2004) La Scala Is the Star at Its Own Reopening : And to the people’s surprise and apparent pleasure, the choice of Salieri’s unimposing but skillfully written and often engaging opera seemed just right. (…) Uncontested inside the theater, at any rate. Outside, amid the thousands of bystanders, there were vociferous protests against the expenditure of public funds on a cultural operation at a time of high unemployment and government cutbacks. (…) (March 8, 2005) Riporto la lettera del M.tro Muti al Corriere della Sera. (March 18, 2005) La Scala Conflict Grows as Workers Ask Conductor to Quit : The climate has grown so ugly, the maestro said last week in canceling a concert. Agreed, said the unions. On Wednesday morning, about 700 of the theater’s 800 workers met and issued an overwhelming but nonbinding vote calling for Mr. Muti’s resignation, (…) The crisis stemmed from the dismissal last month of the general manager, Carlo Fontana, whose relations with Mr. Muti were rocky. Mr. Fontana was replaced by Mauro Meli, a Muti ally who joined in November 2003 as theater director. Mr. Muti was accused of orchestrating the firing and installing his man. The unions, who have a history of muscle-flexing, expressed anger that they were not consulted about it or, more generally, about finances. (…) many of the musicians would have been content to continue working with Mr. Muti but became irritated when he refused any dialogue with the orchestra, preferring to communicate through an open letter to a newspaper. “If he had spoken to us, it would have been positive.” she said (…) The newspaper (Guardian) quoted Mr. Zeffirelli as saying the conductor was “drunk with himself, drugged by his own art and his own personal vanity.” Days later, Mr. Muti sent an open letter to the Milan daily Corriere della Sera saying the musicians had asked him to rescue a house in decline when he joined in 1986. He closed the letter with a hint that he might not be there forever to kick around: (…) (January 7, 2005) Zeffirelli Criticizes La Scala : Zeffirelli has denounced its inaugural season as uninspired mediocrity. (…) He conceded that some famous names, like Zubin Mehta, would lead orchestras during the concert season, but insisted that La Scala was primarily an opera house and that the absence of his preferred conductors ”risks becoming utterly absurd and developing into a scandal of truly international proportions because La Scala belongs to the whole world.” (April 3, 2005) Mutiny at La Scala : Yet even then, storm clouds were gathering, with widespread displeasure at Mr. Muti’s anticlimactic choice to reopen the house. (…) But it was the dismissal of Carlo Fontana as general manager and his replacement by Mauro Meli in February that unleashed the tempest. (…) THE crisis in Milan is rooted not only in the politicized, sometimes anarchic atmosphere of Italian opera houses but also in the complex personality of Mr. Muti. (…) “When it’s not considered art, he (Muti) gets personally offended. He’s had some trouble with the American way of life. He hates the fact that Americans think of culture as entertainment.” (…) At La Scala, where impassioned fans do not hesitate to hoot or hiss during a performance, no one is neutral. Supporters and antagonists have rained down fliers during performances. (…) gamesmanship on Mr. Muti’s part: “Maestro Muti doesn’t talk to the musicians. He only writes a letter to them through Corriere Della Sera.” (…) The situation at La Scala is also suffused with political overtones. The unions representing the musicians and Scala workers are leftist, and the theater’s chairman is the mayor of Milan, Gabriele Albertini, who belongs to the center-right Forza Italia coalition, led by Italy’s premier, Silvio Berlusconi. Though Mr. Muti is generally seen to be neutral, his support has come from the mayor and his ilk, making him an inviting target for the unions.,,1384225,00.html (January 6, 2005) Zeffirelli lays into La Scala season : Zeffirelli accused the opera house of inviting second-rate conductors to perform. (…) Meli rejected the criticism and stressed that La Scala had embarked on a highly innovative season.,,1429011,00.html (March 3, 2005) ‘Dictator’ musical director spoiling show, Zeffirelli tells the Guardian : “He can’t be the general manager and decide the programme of the season all alone,” said Zeffirelli, who has directed most of the world’s greatest opera singers in a career starting in the 1950s (…) Under Muti’s guidance, La Scala has edged towards offering a higher symphonic content in the programme – but Zeffirelli said this decision was jeopardising the uniqueness of the orchestra. “It is born to play opera. It is the best opera orchestra in the world,” he said. (…) In choosing to attack Italy’s most respected musician, Zeffirelli has broken ranks with his own political allies. (…) Muti has had friendly relations with the right, whereas Fontana had been backed by local trade unionists and the leftwing opposition on the council. (…) Leftwing councillors have demanded a parliamentary inquiry into the crisis at La Scala, which is regarded as one of Italy’s most precious cultural treasures (…) Zeffirelli said his sympathies concerning the present dispute were with the musicians of the orchestra – “the flesh and blood of La Scala” – whose opinions had not even been sought. (…),,1661753,00.html (December 8, 2005) Milan‘s opera world divided as British conductor takes on La Scala : The orchestra president, Fedele Confalonieri, also stood down, and the Pirellii chairman, Marco Tronchetti Provera, a major sponsor, also quit the board of directors. Lissner, the first Frenchman to run La Scala, was brought in because of his soothing management skills and insiders described the atmosphere in the opera house as calmer, with everyone said to be pulling together. (May 5, 2005) La Scala leader seeks ‘historic change’ : Before accepting the job, though, Lissner did call one old friend, the French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez. (…) No less important, at Lissner’s request, the positions of general manager and artistic director were for the first time combined. In a country where opera house general managers are traditionally political appointees who outrank music and artistic directors, this could represent a shift of power toward what actually happens on stage. (…) Where Lissner plans caution is in selecting stage directors. Until now, he has been identified with modern and occasionally avant-garde productions. “But I’m not going to apply what I did at the Châtelet and in Aix-en-Provence and say, ‘It worked there, so I’ll do it here,”‘ he said in a nod to La Scala’s more conservative tradition. (…) One worry appears to have eased. Earlier this year, La Scala was said to be close to bankruptcy, but Lissner insisted that there was no financial crisis. (…) For the moment, though, La Scala’s off-stage drama seems to be over. “It was necessary to find someone who had the cultural and artistic ability to interpret La Scala’s unique opera tradition and at the same time someone who would pursue innovation,” explained Bruno Ermolli, vice president of the Teatro Alla Scala Foundation, “and we found these qualities in Lissner. I was most responsible for finding a general manager. Only time will tell if it was a good choice.”,,1674691,00.html (December 29, 2005) Barenboim hints at La Scala encore : In May, the governors appointed a Frenchman, Stephané Lissner, a friend of Barenboim, as general manager and artistic director. It was he who lured Barenboim, 63, back to La Scala, where he last performed 30 years ago. (…) Corriere said the conductor had managed to give the orchestra “an entirely new sound identity” by bringing to the fore its cellos and double basses. (…) In the meantime, Lissner has said that he wants the orchestra to play under the batons of a variety of leading conductors. Under Muti’s direction, relatively few of the world’s leading conductors came to La Scala. (…) But this month it was reported that he (Muti) had threatened legal action if the theatre did not stop using his picture on its website or selling it in its gift shop.,,1775781,00.html (May 16, 2006) Barenboim to be La Scala’s guest : No title, no contract, nothing and everything … Daniel Barenboim. He will also participate in master classes and meetings with students at the theatre’s Academy of Performing Arts. The deal involves La Scala and the Staatsoper exchanging productions. (December 28, 2007) Barenboim’s Tristan und Isolde in Milan : The first night of Tristan und Isolde at La Scala was recorded for broadcast, so I was able to check out some quality clips on YouTube (here) before my own visit. This turned out to be quite useful, (…) At least Barenboim was there to save the day (sort of). His long acquaintance with the score paid off in a monumentally structured orchestral performance of immaculate Wiener-like finesse. If at times Barenboim’s tempo seemed languorous, it was justified later in framing the contrasting sections, forever inching inexorably to the finishing line. It was sometimes hard to believe this was ‘just’ an opera house orchestra, with their lush string sound, polished brass and exquisite balance. The three Vorspiele were an opportunity to just sit back and luxuriate in the sound of the orchestra without the distraction (and that’s what it often was) of singers and movement. These were for me the only truly engaging episodes in the whole evening. The orchestra joined Barenboim on stage to take a bow at the end, something they deserved rather more than certain of the singers. (10 Dec 2007) Tristano Scala : La regia di Chereau ha fatto già incazzare i critici (basterebbe leggere Isotta e Zurletti), mentre la direzione di Baremboim pare mettere tutti d’accordo. La Meier straordinaria nonostante la voce abbia naturalmente perso un po’ dello smalto di dieci anni fa, mentre il tenore Ian Storey non mi è sembrato proprio all’altezza del ruolo di Tristan. Bene l’orchestra (ma può fare senz’altro meglio). (…) (14 Dicembre 2007) Comment #324 : Lasciamo perdere la Verdi e i Pomeriggi musicali che hanno già le loro rogne. Capisco la rabbia, ma la proposta mi fa venire in mente il Buce (definizione non mia, ma dell’immenso Carlo Emilio Gadda), che stroncò uno sciopero dei treni con il Genio Ferroviario. Detto questo, gli orchestrali della FIALS hanno TORTO MARCIO. (…) Mi dispiace per Malatesta, col quale ho sempre avuto un rapporto cordiale, ma questa volta devo dirgli che lui e i suoi non hanno capito nulla della complessità della situazione Scala, (…) Cari amici orchestrali scioperanti, io ho sempre difeso le vostre ragioni, come potete constatare non vi mando degli insulti, ma degli argomenti, su cui vi invito a riflettere. Il vostro sciopero non vi farà ottenere nulla di più di quello che si potrà conquistare con un’azione unitaria a livello aziendale e nazionale. Se io fossi la vostra controparte non mi smuoverei di un millimetro a causa del vostro sciopero. Fuori dalla Scala dove pensate di poter andare? Di essere assunti in blocco dai Berliner o dai Wiener? E’ più facile che diventiate precari come quelli della Verdi. Mi dispiace di essere così duro, ma i veri amici devono parlare agli amici fuori dai denti in casi come questi. Pensateci bene a quali “magnifiche sorti e progressive” avete aperto con lo sciopero di domenica e cercate di aiutarci ad aiutarvi. (September, 2007) Who should they hire then, Mr. Muti? : “There are music directors now with three orchestras,” Riccardo Muti observed yesterday evening at the Italian Cultural Institute. He spoke for an hour and a half with Philip Gossett, the Verdi scholar and distinguished University of Chicago professor, covering such issues as the crisis of classical music and the responsibilities of music directors, and frequently made light of his reputation for vanity and arrogance. Muti spoke passionately about the need for a music director to be a senior figure to the musicians. “Often, my musicians would come to me with problems, ‘I have a sick boy at home, maestro,’ this sort of thing,” and implied that it is somewhat difficult for a less mature conductor. “Of course, it is now fashionable to hire a young music director,” he said, then shrugged, in a not-so-subtle gibe at the ascensions of Gustavo Dudamel and Alan Gilbert in Los Angeles and New York.

JIWON: Headache! I am never good at language. I am awful at memorizing the names and frequently mispronounce them in public places. From Berlusconi to Malatesta… What a headache! I am just very good at remembering their faces when they speak through certain voices… Below are Italian names appeared in the articles. Headache!

1. Silvio Berlusconi: Italy’s premier

2. Gabriele Albertini: Mayor of Milan, who belongs to the center-right Forza Italia coalition, led by Italy’s premier.

3. Stefano Zecchi: Milan’s culture commissioner, who said that Mr. Muti’s departure cast doubt on plans to build the future of La Scala around the conductor.

4. Bruno Ermolli: Vice president of the Teatro Alla Scala Foundation, who said, “We found these qualities in Lissner. I was most responsible for finding a general manager.

5. Gino Vezzini: Vice president of the Amici del Loggione, an association of La Scala opera buffs, who said, “We’d hoped to avert this, and we’d lobbied the maestro to talk to the orchestra.”

6. Bruno Cerri of the union C.G.I.L., the Italian General Confedration of Labor. He said, “For us, the management of the theater remains the main problem. Meli is not the right person to guide the theater during such a delicate moment.”

7. Marco Tronchetti Provera: The Pirellii chairman, a major sponsor, who quit the board of directors.

8. Fedele Confalonieri: The former orchestra president, who also stood down.

9. Ernesto Schiavi: A violinist and artistic director of the Filarmonica Della Scala,

10. Sandro Malatesta: A trumpet player and union representative.

11. New Faces: (JIWON: while re-checking Barenboim’s La Scala-Ghana Concert from months ago, I realized that there are now New Faces in Italian Government. Then, the new prime minister Romano Prodi (Partito Democratico) also quit his job on January 24, 2008. And then, Silvio Berlusconi (Forza Italia) might be again… What the heck! The Mayor of Milan looks like another New Face, Letizia Moratti (centre right). She is still there and also looks like a president of the Teatro Alla Scala Orchestra. Ahhh… difficult… difficult…headache…)


Everybody is reading the same article together. So, please let me know if I look like quoting “specific sentences only” for my very personal, political reason. I tried, tried to be neutral while reading the sources from elsewhere and wanted to pick the facts only. But still, I don’t understand. I now know what had caused Maestro Muti’s rocky relationship with his General Manager. But why should it be an issue? A first-class opera house, which has no rule of maintaining the proper balance between the old and new, or the traditional and the modern repertoire? Everybody has a taste, but in this case, both sides seemed to go to extremes.

By the way, whose favorite musician is Zubin Mehta after all? Muti’s or Zeffirelli’s? Some ago, I happened to find out information about Muti’s relationship with Scala and wanted to know more, then Zubin Mehta suddenly summoned Muti to his IPO to encourage sometimes-Israeli-sometimes-Palestinian pianist, who is called Barenboim’s protégé but in fact Elena Bashkirova Jr., who sounded like inferior pianist, who behaved worse than that, and who was sharply criticized by my insulting. I am still not sure what that meant, for this kind of social gathering, (Muti-Mehta), usually made fun of me behind the scene and destroyed Barenboim’s music business after all.

While reading all the information about Muti Scandal, I couldn’t understand why my ten-something year-long story should always remain as a Secret-Behind-Scenes, while all the major journals esthetically reported its full, detailed story. The Guardian even made a soap-opera with this story. (A fight at the opera )

Unlike Muti’s scandal, which hardly left its home ground, my story started from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one of America’s major orchestras, then spread across all the important parts of America and Europe, where Barenboim was/is bragging his generous/naïve/drunken, OPEN-MINDED manners allowing his snobbish disciples to boast their big-mouth and thick-skin, and to destroy Barenboim’s everything, including the talented youngster around him and even Barenboim himself. First of all, after the members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra voted against Barenboim after receiving my Furtwangler writing, I literally trained the members of Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, which had been lost their way during 1990s under Mehta’s hilarious baton-techniques. Yet the VPO members, who really need a MAESTRO, still don’t prove enough improvement, because they accidentally joined this game merely due to their jealousy toward their rival, the BPO, rather than their pure willingness to realize their Furtwangler-Dream. How many faces are still smiling whenever their boss, Mehta the conductor, is dancing on the podium? Even now, this never-ending story is supposed to travel all over the world…

Dear journalists, including the pro critics, who were hunger for waiting next e-mailing from someone called JIWON,

Which one was more fun to read? Muti Scandal or Mine? I am not sure if they were ever finished understanding my previous message…

Curiously, “La Voce del Loggione” commenced on November 15, 2005, and what day is That Day? I’m suspecting if they wanted to play games with me, but who cares? Reading all their comments will tell me what had been really in their brain+heart. They are talking about German sound. But what really means German sound?

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Muti says he’s direct, not a dictator: “A symphony is a democracy…”
By Bradley S. Klapper | Associated Press
September 30, 2008

Riccardo Muti begins a five-year contract as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2010.

GENEVA—At La Scala, he rankled musicians and clashed with management, personifying at least to some the stereotype of the megalomaniac maestro.

Soon off to Chicago and looking to spread goodwill through music across the globe, Riccardo Muti—the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s new music director—is preaching a different creed. He says any functioning orchestra has to be a democracy.

“I have the reputation around the world as Muti, ‘Il Dittatore,’ ” the 67-year-old conductor told a small group of journalists in Geneva, where he was leading the Vienna Philharmonic in a concert to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the World Health Organization.

“But it’s not so. It’s because when I get to work, I say, ‘Buongiorno, let’s start.’ ”

Muti, a native of Naples, was music director of Milan’s La Scala opera house from 1986 to 2005. He said his direct style with musicians—an Italian preference for “si o no”—might have ruffled some from other cultures used to the long, polite way of answering questions.

“A symphony is a democracy,” he said. “People play different parts together. Every part must have its independence. But it must express itself without killing the independence of the other parts. Otherwise the democracy is killed. Questo e il concetto della musica [that’s the idea of music].”

Muti begins a five-year contract as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in September of the 2010-11 season, filling a post that has been vacant since Daniel Barenboim left two years ago.

He resigned from La Scala in April 2005 amid bitter controversy after artistic and programming differences with the opera house’s former general manager Carlo Fontana led to open conflict with the musicians after Fontana was dismissed.

Muti repeated his desire to reach out to people not usually found in the concert halls of Chicago, including the city’s impoverished and criminals.

He also spoke of the “concerts for friendship” he has organized since the mid-1990s, when he performed in the war-damaged Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. He said more of these performances could help unite people where politics fail.

“When there’s war, conflict, misunderstanding, different opinions, different races, different religions, different colors of skin … we try to bring music,” he said. “It lifts spirits and shows we all have the same soul, all have the same right to live here as people. That is our role as musicians.”

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