Muti and Chailly clash at La Scala reunion

Muti and Chailly clash at La Scala reunion


norman lebrecht

May 12, 2021

It is reported that things got heated last night when Riccardo Muti ran into Riccardo Chailly backstage at La Scala.

Muti, a former music director of the house, was performing a concert with the Vienna Philharmonic. Chailly, the present music director, went to pay his compliments backstage.

Muti at first pretended not to recognise him. When Chailly removed his face mask, Muti ordered ‘him to get out of the way, with colorful expressions’.

The words allegedly used were ‘Fuori dai coglioni!’, or lay off my balls.

Muti later addressed the audience, reminding them that this was the 75th anniversary of Toscanini’s reopening of the house, and the he had also conducted the 50th anniversary.

All rather unnecessary in these stressful times, with Italy still reporting 200-300 deaths a day of Covid.


UPDATE: The shitstorm continues


  • Couperin says:

    Sounds about right. I’ve heard so many horror stories about his egotistical behavior over the years on the podium at Chicago Symphony.

    • Chicagorat says:

      Dedicated to those who think RM is a “class act”. A man after Beauty and Peace.

      It is also reported that, ironically, Muti ordered Chailly out of …. Chailly’s own room (camerino)! Which Chailly had generously allowed him to use, out of pure courtesy.

      According to Il Messaggero, Chailly just left without replying.

      Chailly is the class act. Muti is just the man that those who know him well can fully recognize in this disgraceful scene. A little human being and a gigantic hypocrite.

    • CSOA Insider says:

      Indeed, we have a couple of horror stories every day when he’s here, and when he’s not.

      This is the man who said (again in an after concert backstage situation, when he is usually at his narcissistic adrenaline-driven peak) that Pulitzer-winning composer Jennifer Higson is twice lucky: she has a great career because she is a “woman and a lesbian”. Meaning those are her only qualities. He said so while Ms. Higson was a guest of the CSO who co-commissioned the world premiere which he himself was conducting. People get fired in this day and age for making such statements.

      Heavy, nasty sexual jokes are his bread and butter.

      He calls Myung-whun Chung “the Chinese” and accompanies the nickname with a smirk. Don’t get me started of how hard it is to put any African American composers on his programs.

      We could go on an on …

  • John Borstlap says:

    It’s the music. When conductors, narcisistically vulnerable to identification, are saturated with master works by gigantic musical minds, and they are ‘in’ it most of the time, they forget that it is not them who ‘makes the music’ but that they are REcreating it. Of course that is a great artistic achievement, but it does not mean that they invented the music, that they are on the same level of those minds. What you often see, is that at the beginning of their career they feel like serving the music, and gradually it turns around and the scores are seen as vehicles for THEM, to express THEIR feelings, ideas, moods, etc. It is apparently very difficult to keep some degree of objectivity when you are applauded all the time by full halls. And in the end, they end-up as a caricature of what they could have been.

    • Fake David Letterman says:


      10) Dudamel’s hair

      9) The embarrassed silence filling the room every time he boasts that the Sacra Corona is more powerful than the Chicago Outfit

      8) La Scala shop not having any of his recordings on display (but having plenty of Abbado and Chailly’s)

      7) Jeff Alexander and Stéphane Lissner

      6) Roman Empire overrun by barbaric German tribes 1,545 years ago

      5) Sildenafil and a pacemaker being a terrible clinical combination

      4) His old pal Harvey Sachs reluctantly confirming that Toscanini never dreamed of posing for a picture with Mussolini (which makes RM’s deferential pictures with Putin look nothing short of ghastly)

      3) Hearing “American jerks” coughing during his concerts (climbing fast to #1 post COVID)

      2) ME2

      1) Being hailed as the ZELL Music Director

      Have a Great Day everyone!


    • KANANPOIKA says:

      As I’ve often said: with so many conductors, the score is like a mirror… They open it up, but they
      only see themselves….

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      I’ve seen RM twice in the Musikverein and his Beethoven tempi were off, in my opinion. A woman sitting next to me in one of those concerts said exactly the same thing.

    • Genius Repairman says:

      Yes, being adulated can corrupt, but not in every case. And sometimes the maestro already has a giant ego. After all it takes large cogiloni to want to conduct great symphonic works and operas, while being judged constantly by your peers, musicians, critics, and audience.

    • Burnham says:

      Wait, hold on, wait … let me get this straight:

      – Muti insults the Italian Prime Minister, calls his cabinet a “bunch of ignorants” — in return, he is awarded $1M Euro out of the EU pandemic emergency fund, to inject liquidity into his private Cherubini business

      – He spends the COVID quarantine in Japan and on Cherubini and Wiener tours — yet his US employer, who has not seen him in 16 months, keeps pumping millions into his bank account

      – He publicly insults US donors and protests on the orchestra picket lines during the strike—nevertheless, the CSO rushes to extend his MD contract

      – His character and behavior in the private sphere are … uh … Clintonesque (literally), stains on the CSO reputation (just ask Mr. Alexander on whose watch things are happening) — in spite of this, he was offered the Italian Presidency once by Renzi because he is a “moral authority”

      – Chailly lets him conduct a foreign orchestra on the 75th anniversary of LaScala reopening (as a side note, what was LaScala thinking?!)— instead of a thank you note, he TELLS CHAILLY TO GET THE F*** OUT OF CHAILLY’S OWN OFFICE IN MILAN????

      Wow. The bloke is an evil genius.


      Folks, wake up, we can all learn something from a chap like this!


    • Mervin says:

      Like Levine

  • BRUCEB says:

    He was also famously not friends with Abbado. Threatened by prominent Italians maybe? Or is he like that with everybody?

    One would think that he’d be sufficiently convinced of his own importance by now not to be insecure… one would think.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      Maybe Muti sees in Chailly Abbado because Chailly was the asistant of Abbado at La Scala and because Abbado had an excellent relationship with Chailly.

    • CSOA Insider says:

      Like Don Corleone, he is like this with EVERYONE who does not genuflect and kiss his hand.

  • Full Story says:

    People don’t know the whole story, just the public side to it. Chailly and La Scala (and the journalists close to them) have been complaining for weeks about the fact that a foreign orchestra (Viena Philharmonic) and an invited conductor (Muti) were going to be performing at the 75th anniversary of the reopening of La Scala, instead of the in-house artists. Muti, fed up with all the crap, reacted that way.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      It was strange to do the first concert with a foreign orchestra.

    • Louis Pape says:

      I totally agree with “Full Story”.
      At the time La Scala announced its season there was no certainty about when the theatre would have been reopened to the public, so the assumption was that all concerts would have been performed without public and streamed on line.
      Only at a much later stage the Italian authorities lifted some of the Covid restrictions, allowing the presence of some public (filling approximately a fourth of the capacity of the house).
      It was therefore a mere coincidence that the Vienna Philarmonic concert conducted by Muti became the first event scheduled to take place with some public in the house.
      At that point some opera fans were taken by a collective attack of hysteria and demanded that the Muti concert be preceded by another one given by the La Scala orchestra under its current music director.
      The management of the Theatre obliged to the mob and a concert featuring some popular warhorses was put together in haste, taking place the day before the Muti concert.
      It is only logical that Maestro Muti was not amused by this crap.
      This is not to justify his verbal abuse on Maestro Chailly, but things need to be put in their full context. For all the clashes Maestro Muti might have had with the orchestra at the time of his tenure at La Scala, he should have been treated with more respect.

  • personalities says:

    they should immediately kick him out, to fight right wing power.. or to fight artist with (difficult) personalities .. or something like that. ask german politicians, they know this very well – since the 1930s and still today (e.g. in Dresden, where they yesterday kicked out a maestro).

  • Why you mad tho says:

    He mad cuz Chailly is better conductor.

  • MacroV says:

    Definitely not cool. Even if they’ve had a decades-long dislike, he could at least have faked it.

    I’ve also heard he and Abbado didn’t get along, though I recall some documentary where he spoke very warmly of him, as though they were longtime friends. No idea.

  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    We know that Muti had some hard times at La Scala more than 15 years ago. Maybe it was fair maybe it was unfair I always thought that it was the second answer. But he made the big error to stay there a too long time here. But Chailly is not responsable of what happenned in the mid 2000’s when he was at Amsterdam and Leipzig. The way Muti acted if it’s real is not elegant and deeply stupid. And the way Muti seems to act like there’s only one Riccardo in Italy is very very disappointing. hard not to see jealousy because Chailly he’s giving to la Scala a real golden age today.

  • anon says:

    According to the article, Muti has a history of making offensive remarks to other conductors, including calling Myung-whun Chun “the Chinaman”

    He’s vulgar to his fellow Italians and racist to his Asian colleagues.

    Guess that’s the last time he’ll be back in La Scala.

    Plus, he conducted the same program he conducted 25 years ago in honor of Toscanini.

    Muti has been on autopilot for the last 30 years, conducting his greatest hits from his first 30 years.

    He’s a hoary relic.

    • mary says:

      Karajan referred to James Levine as “the Jew”.

      • henry williams says:

        iam surprised some jewish
        musicians played with karajan

      • Tamino says:

        Said to whom? When and where? In which language?

      • Novagerio says:

        “Karajan referred to James Levine as “the Jew”.

        Wrong Mary: Karajan referred to Mehta as “the Indian” back in the early 60s – adding, “he’s very captivating!”

    • Jane says:

      I’m Asian and have worked with Muti very closely for years- he never made a single offensive remark, even to the Asian orchestra members, whether behind their backs or in the dressing room. Never. Not even once. I guess there are people here who are commenting as ‘spectators and speculators’ and there are the people who know him personally. All I can say is- take the news with a pinch of salt.

      • Kelly says:


        Maestro Muti has always been a fierce advocate for both the musicians and the stagehands of the orchestra. To have a music director who acknowledges the talent and commitment of those in his inner circle proves him to be a true leader. I will forever appreciate the friendship and support he extended to his “orchestra family”.
        Bravo Maestro. I wish you blessings and happiness always.

        • Jane Li says:

          Thanks for the comment! I wanted to add – he also often welcome people to speak to him after his performances, giving handshakes, hugs, writing messages for fans who ask for his autographs (not just a signature but a small note too), etc. It takes someone in his inner circle (or even someone who personally know him) to realize that most of these comments are just hearsay- just like that joke about him and his hair in the desert! (I honestly love the joke though! I think he knows about it too because he sometimes would say, I washed and shampooed my hair today!)

  • fred says:

    maybe Muti HAD a reason to ‘kick him out’ ?!? We obviously don’t know the whole story though I only know Chailly as a pretty decent man but then one doesn’t know the Muti senza acuti’s reason

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Boorish behaviour from Muti. A more confident, less narcissistic individual would never behave in this fashion. He obviously detects threats where there are none.

  • Eusebius says:

    Muti is anti-establishment and Chailly represents the corrupt Italian establishment that he despises. So leave Muti alone. He’s a good guy.

  • Barry says:

    It strikes me as appropriate that La Scala musicians, rather than a visiting Orchestra, should have re-opened the house.

  • Bruno says:

    “Muti at first pretended not to recognise him.”

    What a pathetic and petty loser.

    Milano rejected him a long time ago.

    Un pallone gonfiato, e basta.

  • Robert Trumpet says:

    It is crazy to expect what is impossible.

    And it is impossible for Muti not to be Muti.

  • Edoardo says:

    The story, albeit plausible, is not confirmed. It seems that Chailly tapped Muti on a shoulder after the concert. Muti asked “who are you?” It is not even clear that Muti had recognized Chailly who was wearing a face mask. It seems that the dressing room was full of people, including a TV crew, and Muti was visibly annoyed. I repeat, the story is plausible but not confirmed, for what I read on Italian outlets. No journal had reported this story (as per yesterday), only some (usually VERY well informed) gossip site.

  • Ulrich Brass says:

    Muti was upset because the initial plans for the alla Scala reopening were with his concert conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker. Then some voices criticised doing the reopening with a external orchestra when the house hosts one the the best orchestras in the world. After some reconsideration the management decided to open one day earlier with house orchestra playing with another soprano (Lise Davidsen) the same programme they have been recording with Anna Netrebko the previous week.

  • grabenassel says:

    ….I assume everybody knows the famous joke about Muti lost in the desert and begging for some water…..?

    • microview says:


      • grabenassel says:

        It really only works when told live: Muti is lost in the desert, no water for days…he pleads to God ” Dio, per favore, un po d’aqua!” Nothing. Again “Please! Just a few drops!” Nothing. “Prego, Dio!” Finally God has mercy: “Ok, hold out your hands” Muti does, and God gives him some water. Muti: “Grazie, Dio, Grazie!” and with a vain gesture smooths his hair…..(which actually has to be performed while telling…;-))

  • Edoardo says:

    The Corriere della Sera, one of the major Italian newspapers, reports the news:

    At the end of the concert Muti founds a TV crew outside his dresssing room: it the the TV crew that had filmed the concert but Muti believes it is a group of journalsit waiting for comments. A row follows with the Scala Communication Director. At this point it seems that Chailly appears, wearing a face mask, but he is not recognized by Muti, who, even more irritated, shouts “Everybody out!”

    Other sites reports that Chailly has tapped Muti on shoulder and Muti asked: “Who are you?” to which Chailly replied “I am the other Riccardo, coming to congratulate”. But this may be pure gossip…

  • Rob says:

    Vaccine side effects?

  • Mootie says:

    Muti is so full of shit.

    He should be happy for the career he’s had.

    Instead he keeps conducting over and over same lame repertoire with worse and worse results. His Brahms 2 with Vienna was embarrassing.
    Go to pension. Enough.