Breaking: Chicago calls off Muti’s 80th birthday tour

Breaking: Chicago calls off Muti’s 80th birthday tour


norman lebrecht

February 22, 2021

The Chicago Symphony will not be appearing at Salzburg or other European festivals this summer ‘due to ongoing health and safety concerns and potential travel and performance restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic.’

The statement continues:

“International touring remains a top priority for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and music director Riccardo Muti. We look forward to serving as Chicago’s cultural ambassador and performing for international audiences again in the future, once health and safety restrictions enable us to do so,” says CSOA President Jeff Alexander.



  • Têtu says:

    Yikes but not surprised. Who here thinks orchestras will shut down in the USA until Dec?

  • I hope that he will go at La Scala for one stage. Even his story there didn’t finish well he must go there with Chicago. The public of Milan and him deserves that.

    • Higher priority would be Ames, Ann Arbor, Cedar Rapids, Champaign, Cincinnati, Des Moines, Detroit, Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Louisville, Madison, Milwaukee, Peoria, South Bend, Springfield and St Louis — with Maestro! By bus even.

      • Why not concerning Chicago I would have loved also to see the orchestra with Solti but it’s too late unfortnulatly.

        • I actually preferred them with DB. Did you hear the orchestra then? Wonderful Brahms. They were always a mean machine with Solti, wanting charm and bonhomie. Yet that is the era everyone recalls!

          • No I have never heard the Chicago orchestra but I heard twice LA and above once Boston. They came in Europe last year but I didn”t find a ticket. But I konw the legend about the excellent reputation of the wind musicians of the orchestra and what Solti did there..

        • Greg Bottini says:

          Concertgebouw79: I heard the Chicago Symphony with Solti, on tour in San Francisco.
          The brass section was ugly-sounding and overbearing and the strings sounded scratchy and scrawny. The entire orchestra, although the ensemble was tight, sounded generic and poorly balanced.
          And this was in a supposed Solti specialty, the Concerto for Orchestra!

          • Barry Guerrero says:

            I was at the Mahler 5 concert in S.F., with the same exact result. Believe it or not, the single worst orchestral performance of ANYTHING I’ve ever heard. The entire orchestra sounded as though it were at war with itself. Ugly, heavy, insensitive, atrocious playing. Go figure! (rumor had it that Solti’s hearing was pretty well shot by that time).

      • Chicagorat says:

        This idea is laudable but flawed and would incur Muti’s veto. You see, you can’t find a 5-star Italian restaurant in Cedar Rapids and a Four Seasons hotel (or comparable luxury category). And Maestro would die of starvation rather than eating burgers or chicken nuggets (American primitive junk, according to him).

        • Old Man in the Midwest says:

          The money saved (assuming the CSO can get a sponsor for a nice domestic tour) would pay for a personal chef to do his shopping and cooking for after concert meals. And don’t assume that some of these small towns don’t have great food. They often do.

          • Chicagorat says:

            Oh, I am 100% with you. I grew up in small town America.

            But to the guy who worked in the US for -what- 20 years and still speaks in 5th grade level English, we Americans are just primitives.

          • Fabio Frattini says:

            Interesting. I wonder how he does that, since he typically does not go beyond 7th grade in his native tongue.

        • Tamino says:

          Chicken nuggets are repulsive. Only people in their majority ignorant of their food would eat such garbage. Muti is right. 🙂

          • Burger King says:

            You prefer wurstel right? Sausages coming in 100 different types and length, from your glorious culinary history?

      • Kyle Wiedmeyer says:

        Hey! The CSO should totally come to Milwaukee, we’ve got a brand spankin’ new concert hall for them to try out.

      • Been there, done that says:

        I don’t think that Muti would mind traveling by bus as long as someone saves him the front seat.

    • Burhnam says:

      Just two comments: 1) Muti already went back to Milan with the CSO, most recently in Jan 2020 and 2) Back in 2005 he was voted out UNANIMOUSLY by the orchestra and the staff. He did not get one vote of support, i.e., nobody wanted him. That’s why he desperately wanted to go back with the CSO, to humiliate Milan.

      After all, this is the man who goes around in Orchestra Hall saying “Chailly does not understand music”. (While Chailly instead speaks always respectfully of him and would welcome him to conduct at La Scala …)

      • The people of Slippedisc knows my devotion about Chailly the GOAT. I never read negative things from Muti about him. I don’t think they know eachother very well. Maybe they met eachother in the 90’s at la Scala when Chailly was guest on Youtube I saw a video from that moment. Chailly worked with Abbado and Muti met frenquetly Abbado in London. But the fact is that Muti lives in italy and the fact is that Chailly has a very big sucess today with La Scala it must lead to reactions from Muti I would be curious to know. And I can’t believe that Muti didn”t watch the last 7th December gala…

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    The real reason why the tour was canceled?

    Management could not find a reliable source of clean water for Muti to slick back his hair before going onstage.

    • Neil B. says:

      No disrespect, just some light humor:

      The Maestro was stuck on a desert with no water, and he was crying out to the heavens for a drop of water for his survival. God took pity on him on account of his musical prowess and granted him a single drop, which he promptly used to set his hair.

  • Fake David Letterman says:



    10) 12+ years after President Obama moved out of Chicago, doesn’t stop whining about the former POTUS never attending one of his concerts (ii)

    9) Asks his office to set-up an urgent meeting with Steven Spielberg to pitch the idea of a “Cherubini Hustler” blockbuster hit with him as the protagonist and a CGI Rita Hayworth as the leading actress

    8) Spends his entire MD budget on female focus groups to test mask prototypes and figure out which design makes him look sexier

    7) Starts rehearsals with anecdotes handed down by his teacher concerning an original Pergolesi “Tiber Gold” opera manuscript discovered in Naples’ ancient conservatory library (a masterpiece way ahead of its time which – he purports – Wagner surreptitiously copied during his second Italian trip, re-orchestrated, translated, re-named and passed as his own)

    6) Deeply envious of Mr. Draghi’s good looks and immaculate international reputation, tells everyone he meets that the new Italian prime minister had multiple plastic surgeries, a hair transplant, and employs Cinecitta’ make-up artists to make himself look handsome

    5) Enraged because the Teatro San Carlo cancelled his concerts and new “Cosi'” production directed by his daughter Chiara, makes Rudolph Giuliani a job offer he can’t refuse and sends him to Russia on a covert mission to dig up dirt on Mr. Lissner (iii)

    4) Pays one million Euros for a full-size carbon-fiber talking Verdi dummy and places it in his Chicago office to impress visitors (right next to the picture of himself meeting the Queen). Confers with it before making important decisions

    3) Has the mysterious C.A.G.S.O.M monogram (iv) printed in gold on his concert shirts and orders the Marketing Department to embed it in the CSO logo and website

    2) Claims to have hard evidence tracing back the COVID outbreak not to Wuhan, but to a US-British biotech owned by a powerful, Solti-nostalgic Board Trustee


    1) Tries to add an Italian proficiency exam to the CSO audition requirements!

    Have a Great Day everyone!!



    (i) Instructions: if more than five behaviors are observed within a one-month period, the question must be answered in the positive.

    (ii) President Obama made his musical tastes (and social distastes) very clear and never showed up at Muti’s concerts. Not once. Oh yes folks, our 44th President is a very smart man.

    (iii) Valerio Cappelli and Manuel Brug, already on Maestro’s “black ops” team, are asked to provide the mission with PR support.

    (iv) This is totally unrelated to Muti’s Chicago extension through 2024, which is now public knowledge (not inked but a done deal). However, in order to keep helpful information flowing to the public, we can disclose without fear of legal troubles that Muti is already at work and lobbying the Orchestra for a lifetime appointment! (if Karajan had it, why can’t he?! 😉

    v) Mhhh this can’t be that hard to crack ….. let’s see ….. here you go: “Casanova Ain’t Got S*** On Me”?

  • sam says:

    Why should the entire CSO fly to Vienna, just to wish the Old Man a happy birthday, when Muti did not fly back to Chicago for a single day during the entire pandemic?

    The 80th Birthday tour was never about Chicago (or Chicagoans), but all about stroking Muti’s ego, and given his cavalier attitude about sanitary health (No Mask Muti), Austria’s We-Don’t-Give-A-Damn public health policy (let’s keep those ski resorts open!), why should the CSO bear the enormous financial costs and logistic nightmare of ensuring an infection free tour, just so that Muti could have a big birthday bash near his home?

    Muti is welcome to celebrate in Chicago.

    • Burham says:

      I found myself in violent agreement with you, until I read your last sentence 😉

    • Anonymous says:

      He would not be able to get into US due to his EU citizenship. The borders have been shot, in case you haven’t heard.

    • MJA says:

      Sam – because they made a commitment. That’s why.

    • karolina says:

      Hear, hear, Muti is the music director of the Chicago Symphony, the Chicago Symphony isn’t the orchestra of Riccardo Muti.

      • CSOA Insider says:

        Sadly it is, since Jeff Alexander, the President of the CSO, has no backbone. Example: Alexander does not hire a new VP of Artistic Planning (part of his own staff), because Muti vetoed it.

        The whole house of cards hinges on Ms. Zell being misguided and putting all her eggs in Muti’s basket. And we know what usually happens to house of cards …

  • CA says:

    Nobody should be surprised by this. In my opinion, it was wishful thinking to think that they could have proceeded this summer. 2022? MAYBE (unfortunately).

  • JussiB says:

    At this rate, CSO will not be appearing anywhere, period.
    Arts in the U.S. will remain shut down until fall of 2022. I may have to go hear the Berlin Phil and others in Taipei.

  • Fenway says:

    Obama likes rap, being the good community organizer he is. I bet he has never been to an orchestra concert. As he would say: “above my pay grade.”


  • Nick2 says:

    I heard the CSO only once – on tour in Hong Kong with Solti. A splendid Haydn symphony was followed by a magnificent Bruckner 7. Then Solti killed the whole effect of that wonderful performance by announcing half way on stage that the orchestra would play an encore everyone would know and love. He walked offstage and the concertmaster started the orchestra playing The Stars and Stripes Forever. It was disgraceful – and most members of the audience agreed.

  • Chiara says:

    Muti is due to conduct Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in August in Salzburg with the Vienna Philharmonic. I believe he should have conducted it in Chicago last autumn but couldn’t due to COVID-19. I hope to be there, assuming our (UK) restrictions really are lifted and we can travel.
    I don’t believe that Muti could legally travel to the US from Italy due to COVID restrictions whether he wanted to do so or not.