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Last Updated: Friday, 24 September, 2004, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
Maestro Muti's musical journey
Riccardo Muti
Muti is renowned for his conducting of Mozart's work
BBC News Online profiles Italian conductor Riccardo Muti, whose withdrawal from a production at the Royal Opera House has sent shock waves through the classical music world.

The Royal Opera's announcement earlier this year that Riccardo Muti would be returning to Covent Garden after an absence of two decades was a major coup for its music director, Antonio Pappano.

But the football-loving Pappano may have inadvertently tempted fate when he told the Daily Telegraph in April: "I'll believe it when I see him on the first day of rehearsal."

Muti's sensational withdrawal from the production of Verdi's La Forza del Destino he was due to conduct in October has been interpreted by many as behaviour more suited to an opera diva than a highly respected conductor.

But there will be just as many who will see it as evidence of the relentless high standards and refusal to compromise that have made him one of the world's foremost music figures.

Victory

Born in Naples in 1941, Muti studied piano from an early age and gained the top grade at the Conservatorio di San Pietro a Majella.

In 1967 he became the first Italian to win the prestigious Guido Cantelli prize, a victory that brought him to the attention of the entire musical world.

Riccardo Muti conducts at the Ravenna festival
Riccardo Muti conducting at the Ravenna festival in July 2004
The following year he became principal conductor and music director of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, a post he held until 1980.

Since 1972 he has conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, becoming its principal director in 1979 and, in 1982, conductor laureate.

Muti was also music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1980 to 1992.

However, it is as music director of La Scala - a job he took up in 1986 - for which the maestro remains most celebrated.

His successes at the legendary Milanese opera house include winning the Viotti d'Oro prize in 1988 with the Scala Philharmonic Orchestra and a triumphant tour of Russia in 1989.

Autocratic

In 2001 he received the Russian Order of Friendship from president Vladimir Putin for boosting good relations between the two countries.

Muti has conducted at Salzburg every year since 1971 and has gained a special reputation as a conductor of Mozart.

La Scala
La Scala will reopen in December after a three-year refurbishment
He has also directed opera productions in Philadelphia, New York, Munich and Vienna.

Now 63, Muti is famed for his autocratic style - evidenced in 1992 when he walked out on a Salzburg production of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito.

This latest withdrawal, however, may have come at an inopportune moment.

La Scala is due to reopen in December after three years of costly and often contentious refurbishment.

It would surely be unfortunate if this landmark restoration was overshadowed by its musical director's latest display of artistic temperament.


SEE ALSO:
Maestro walks out on Royal Opera
24 Sep 04  |  Entertainment
Restoring the glory to La Scala
17 Jul 04  |  Entertainment
Conductor given Russian honour
03 Oct 01  |  Entertainment


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