Fabio Luisi is the new music director of Florence's Opera di Firenze and its spring festival, known as the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Zubin Mehta, who has been chief conductor of the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino since 1985, will stay on as principal conductor emeritus.
Luisi is currently the principal conductor at the Metropolitan Opera and general music director at Zurich Opera, but he will now conduct three opera productions as well as symphonic concerts in Florence each year. He officially becomes music director in April 2018.
I was born in Genoa. The first part of my life was spent abroad, in Austria, in Germany, in the United States. Now, at 58, it's time to consolidate what I have built up elsewhere, and commit myself to work in my own country, a place so rich in culture but also with its excellent orchestras and choruses… like those of the Maggio Fiorentino. I happily accepted the offer to become its musical director.
The position of music director is a new one, reportedly created for Luisi to reflect the important role that he will play in the company's future.
The appointment will necessitate him leaving his position at the Met.
I've spent the last 12 years there, first as guest conductor, then as principal. It will remain my “home” across the ocean, and I have many friends there. It was a wonderful time, but now I'm happy to start a new chapter, this time in my own country, where I have visited to conduct so many times, but as a ‘foreigner'. This will be my first institutional position, in a theatre with a great history, and a first-class orchestra created by Zubin Mehta.
However, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino has had gigantic economic hurdles to overcome recently.
There are many problems, but for my part I will try to do everything possible to give back to Maggio its lost identity. An International Festival that looks at the present and to the future; the twentieth century and contemporary. Giving space to musical theatre, and the excellent Italian composers who in recent years were forced to go abroad to have their works performed.
In an interview with the Corriere della sera's di Giuseppina Manin, Luisi said,
In Italy, you can work, and work well. Yes, it's true that the opera companies are in difficulty, but the number of productions are growing and the audience as well. The attitude is changing, and finally there are less political appointments and more based on competence and ability. Certainly, old habits die hard, but to restore vitality to our theatres, we must return to principles. As a Chinese proverb says, “It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice”.
Much of Luisi's work has been in the US where private sector funding is the norm.
But private sponsors don't give the security of continuity. Many theatres in the States are suffering because the sponsors are leaving. The State must give stability to the arts.
Luisi has worked extensively at La Scala, having conducted several operas and many concerts, and will be returning tomorrow night – Monday 20 February – to conduct the Filarmonica della Scala in a Strauss and Liszt programme.
With La Scala, I have very special ties. I admire the work that Chailly is doing to give the bel canto repertory its due place. Next season I will be back to conduct an opera. An Italian opera!
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.