Riccardo vs Riccardo. One is the theatre’s former music director Riccardo Muti, who last night concluded the Vienna Philharmonic’s mini Italian tour at La Scala on the 75th anniversary of the theatre’s reopening after its reconstruction after the war. The other is the current music director Riccardo Chailly, who on Monday conducted the theatre’s chorus and orchestra in the reopening concert, the first with an audience after 199 days of anti-Covid restrictions.
At the end of last night’s concert, Chailly went to congratulate his predecessor who he had given his private dressing room to use. When Chailly arrived, Muti claimed not to know him and asked who he was and what he was doing there. Onlookers thought that he was joking. Chailly took off his mask, explaining that he had come to congratulate him on a fine concert, but Muti told him to get lost, though with more colourful language: “Fuori dai coglioni!” (literally, “get out of my balls” or colloquially, “F*** off!”) Chailly is said to have maintained his calm and let it go.
Muti, who was La Scala’s musical director from 1986 until his stormy farewell in 2005, may not have appreciated the controversy caused by the timing of his concert, having the Austrian orchestra reopen the theatre to the public on the exact day of the 75th anniversary of Arturo Toscanini’s concert, the first after the war and reconstruction. The controversy was silenced by the decision to schedule a concert the day before with the La Scala chorus and orchestra conducted by Chailly so that there would be not one, but two special concerts. At the end of the last night’s concert, before an encore, Muti stressed that the date of the concert was just a ‘coincidence’, and he reminded the audience that he had performed the same programme as Toscanini’s concert in 1996 to celebrate the 50th anniversary.
It seems that Muti was already angry having mistaken the television crew that had filmed the concert for journalists so, unhappy with their presence, he had apparently already lashed out at La Scala’s press officer.
La Scala said “no comment” when asked to elaborate on what had happened. The theatre’s new Intendent, Dominique Meyer had been eager to invite Muti to return to conduct an opera at the theatre.
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.