The low-down: Mehta is being shuttled by private jet between San Carlo and La Scala

The low-down: Mehta is being shuttled by private jet between San Carlo and La Scala


norman lebrecht

February 20, 2015

Our Italian golo profondo has been shocked to discover that a private jet has been booked to fly Zubin Mehta from Naples (where he’s conducting Tristan next week) to Milan for Aida. Not once, but seven times.

In an era of austerity, that seems a tad … extravagant. Especially if La Scala is paying for it out of the public purse.

Mehta is substituting at La Scala for the late Lorin Mazel.

So we made a few enquiries. Nothing untoward, it seems. Mehta’s flights are being paid for by  a private sponsor, his own, not La Scala’s (rather like the late Countess Ceschina would pay for Gergiev’s jets).

In fact, La Scala saves money on the deal. About 5,000 Euros in all on scheduled Business Class flights.


Zubin Mehta in Srinagar

(not in one of these)



  • Milka says:

    In the classical music world going after disoriented rich widows $$$$$ is fair game .
    It is almost the norm …it seems that for many in the field
    “integrity” would be considered excess baggage to be gotten rid of as soon as possible .
    The trick is to make stalking the $$$$ seem a gift or donation ,quite an art in itself .

    • Nick says:

      Back in the 1980s before her fall from grace, Imelda Marcos – she of the 3,000 pairs of shoes – had a suite at the Waldorf Astoria and later a New York townhouse. A frequent dinner guest was Placido Domingo whom she had got to know when she flew the entire San Francisco Opera to Manila for some Tosca performances at the end of 1979 (Eva Marton and Tom Krause were also in the cast).

      It was well known that if Domingo were to drop a hint of having to travel to get from one coast to the other in some haste, one of the Marcos retinue of ‘Blue Ladies’ would be instructed to ensure a private jet would be arranged – presumably at the expense of the taxpayers in The Philippines.

      Were private jets common in the classical music business prior to that time, I wonder?

  • Novagerio says:

    Lorin Mazel?…..

  • Marie says:

    Pereira should be on his knees that Mehta agreed to take over Aida from Lorin Maazel, inspite of his calendar being already completely filled. Whoever thinks theese two productions + concerts could be done at the same time, going back and forth on normal flights has no idea what he’s talking about, sorry.
    And it’s Zubin Mehta’s (or anyone elses in this situation) right to have everything arranged as comfortable as possible to secure high class performances.

    • Concert listener says:

      Meh, many conductors can conduct an Aida as least as good as Mehta does. It’s nothing but a vane extravaganza and even not healthy for the old man to do this.
      A lost opportunity for the jet set superficial music business to heal.
      Back to the roots, back to the music… names are just smoke and mirrors.

  • Concert listener says:

    If you want to conduct a rehearsal morning until afternoon in Napoli and be in Milano in time to conduct the evening performance, there is no other way than a private jet.
    The real question is why Milano couldn’t trust theses performances to another conductor.

    • erich says:

      Mehta has been a superficial but dependable stickwagger for years. Put the Money in at the top and the notes come out at the bottom – but with only very rare exceptions, instantly forgettable (like this year’s New Years concert.)

  • Anon says:

    I actually know a freelance clarinetist who once did this. He had to get from a gig with SF Opera Orch. to Santa Fe Opera the same day so he chartered a private plane. He didn’t want to turn down either one.

    He was a very successful freelance musician who did well in the profession until he realized he could make a lot more money being a physician. After earning conservatory degrees and subbing with top orchs., he went back to pre-med & med school at age 37.

    He is now a millionare and owns his own plane. Santa Fe doesn’t call him anymore, though. . .

    • erich says:

      Mehta has, for years, been a ‘baton’ for hire’ if the price is right. Just stick the money in at the top and the notes come out at the bottom. Superficiality is the watchword for 98% of his performances as a result.

    • erich says:

      Mehta has always been a multitasker – as long as the money is right. Unfortunately that mostly leads to giving deeply superficial performances. They start together and end together – but the content in-between is mostly instantly forgettable – like this year’s New Year’s concert.

  • Anon says:

    This is especially interesting in light of the fact that Helga Schmidt, until 2 wks ago head of Les Arts Opera in Valencia Spain, lost her job and is now being convicted in a govt. court for financial irregularities at Les Arts, the most glaring of which are the contracts and financial agreements she made with Zubin Mehta and Placido Domingo regarding their employment there.

    Since, as at La Scala, they were being paid with public money, Spanish authorities are being vigilant to the point of throwing Mrs Schmidt out on her ear. Mehta has vowed never
    to return to Les Arts until Schmidt is absolved of her “crimes”. So he goes over to Italy where ALSO using public money he is being flown around in a private jet. Quite the double standard, I’d say.

  • Marie says:

    I am a fan of many conductors and I have seen some great performances with Mehta. I don’t fully agree with your post. I am wondering if someone who only works for the money would spend three months per year with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for more than fourty years. And accept not to be paid for months in Florence. And decline to conduct the Three Tenors World Tour, which would have earned millions. Of course he has done some big events and surely made good money – but why not? Levine, Muti, Rattle, Barenboim, Gatti, Gergiev aren’t working for free. As for superficiality – that’s personal taste, but one has to acknoledge that Mehta is very loyal to his orchestras even when times get rough.

  • Richard Hallam says:

    Given that Sky Sports and the Dirty Digger have just agreed broadcasting rights that will see the UK Premiership better off by $16 million per game (per game!), for a 90 minute kick-about, this seems tame by comparison.