September 22, 2014 / 4:04 PM / 4 years ago

Riccardo Muti bows out of conducting Rome opera amid strikes

ROME (Reuters) - Riccardo Muti has said “basta” to Rome’s opera house after a six-year tenure as honorary director blighted by strikes, infighting and financial woes.

Italian director Riccardo Muti conducts a concert offered to the Pope by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican May 11, 2012. REUTERS/Max Rossi

The veteran maestro wrote a letter to the theater’s general director Carlo Fuortes to say he had dropped plans to conduct upcoming productions of “Aida” and “The Marriage of Figaro”.

“Sadly, despite all my efforts to contribute to your cause, the current situation does not guarantee the serenity I need to ensure the productions are a success,” Muti said in a letter quoted by Fuortes in a statement on Monday.

Muti became the second music director of a European opera house to walk out this month. Franz Welser-Moest, one of Austria’s most famous conductors, quit as musical director of Vienna’s famed State Opera just days after its 2014-15 season began, citing an artistic clash with its director.

Italian media said Muti had also resigned as “honorary director for life” at the Rome opera house, but there was no immediate confirmation of this.

Fuortes, in a joint statement with Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino, thanked Muti and said his decision was “doubtless” influenced by the protests, internal strife and months of strikes over conditions and staffing levels, which have forced the cancellation of several productions.

Muti, who resigned from the more prestigious La Scala opera house in Milan nine years ago after a power battle with workers and musicians, is considered one of Italy’s great conductors but has attracted criticism for his domineering management style.

His tendency to scowl at the audience and shush them quiet earned him a formidable reputation which was only strengthened when he stormed out of a production at London’s Covent Garden in 2004 because changes had been made to a stage set.

The Rome Opera did not say whether there would be any changes to the season’s calendar following Muti’s departure.

Marino and Fuortes said they hoped Muti could return to the post “once the problems that still afflict the theater, and the world of music in Italy in general, are overcome”.

Marino and Fuortes said they would keep working to straighten out the finances and management of the Rome Opera, which they said is now back in the black after losing around 12 million euros ($15.39 million) last year.

Muti, who has also wielded the director’s baton at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 2010, said his main focus in Italy would now be on the Cherubini youth orchestra he founded in 2004.

($1 = 0.7800 euro)

Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Michael Roddy and Crispian Balmer

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