Riccardo Muti faces ban for life at La Scala

Riccardo Muti faces ban for life at La Scala


norman lebrecht

May 16, 2021

We hear that musicians at La Scala, Milan, have requested a lifetime ban on their former music director, Riccardo Muti, following disgraceful scenes at his concert last week with the Vienna Philharmonic.

Muti initially insulted and shouted at his successor Riccardo Chailly, who had given up his own private room to the distinguished guest. After the concert, he called for a microphone to address the audience and was ignored by stage staff. He proceeded to shout half-comprehensible and generally irrelevant comments about Toscanini’s return to La Scala in 1946.

Since his stormy departure 16 years ago, Muti has returned to La Scala with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony but has never agreed to conduct a concert with the Scala orchestra, let alone to conduct an opera. He has now left behind a sense of outrage and orchestra members are adamant that they do not want to see him again.

Muti, however, is planning an appearance in Milan on December 7, the night that Chailly will open La Scala’s season with Verdi’s Nabucco.

Muti, who turns 80 in July, will be on the other side of town that night with his Italian Opera Academy in the Fondazione Prada with Verdi’s Nabucco.

The shitstorm continues.



  • Player says:

    Enough of the Muti bashing!

    Mute-y Tutti!

    • Brad says:

      Ok you go first … You have already littered SD with like 100 posts in 2 days as a Muti apologetic.

      The man is indefensible, get over it already

      Stay Mut0!

    • MORAL OF THE STORY says:

      MUTI – hai fatti una vera FIGURA DI MERDA



  • Confused says:

    Seriously, Nabucco in both places?!?

  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    Muti after what we have seen this week has nothing to do here. Fuori! Italy has several conductors to promot on the prestigious stage like Noseda or Luisi.

    • Laurent says:

      In the “Shitstorm” blog thread, a SD reader has shared a link to an Italian article (https://www.dagospia.com/rubrica-2/media_e_tv/muti-fu-ndash-non-puo-sorprendere-che-maestro-abbia-inveito-270057.htm)
      where the married Muti is depicted as a womanizer, with specifics mentioned including US secretaries and choristers.

      The article also speaks of Muti’s passion for telling dirty sexual jokes and covers Muti making an impression of a disabled conductor, Jeffrey Tate.

      If you use Google translate, you might get shocked!

      • CSOA Insider says:

        Thank you very much for sharing the link. Refreshing to see the boil starting to burst.

        I have zero sympathy for Jeff Alexander. He is enabling Muti. He writes the job descriptions and tolerates the deviations from them. As the President and the financial steward of the organization, he has deliberately chosen to let go of staff while continuing to fund Muti’s personal entertainment circus. He even takes the circus on tour, sparing no expenses.

        When Muti’s wife comes to Chicago, Alexander pulls out the red carpet for her. Such duplicity is sickening.

        Is Ms. Zell aware as well? What about the CSO corporate sponsors? Bank of America, Allstate, United Airlines, Northern Trust – they would neither allow nor enable such a sharade in their own corporate ranks.

        This is all ethically unacceptable. It will come to a head and it will not be good for the CSO.

      • Steve Easterbrook says:

        The New York Times reported about Bill Gates:

        “Current and former employees said he had a pattern of courting women in the workplace.” Other papers reported today that he had relationships with some female employees while being married. Learning about these behaviors, Microsoft decided he was no longer fit for his corporate role. Game over for Bill.

        I wonder why this sounds so familiar.

      • Laura says:

        I am still wondering, how Muti was able to keep his name out of the Meetoo movement…….

        • Ashu says:

          [I am still wondering, how Muti was able to keep his name out of the Meetoo movement…….]

          In Italy, at least, it’s no surprise. They’re still playing Marilyn Manson on Italian radio.

    • Chicagorat says:

      What has been described by Italian papers and this website is the EVERY DAY SCENE in Chicago.

      Muti wants to be adored and revered like an Emperor or some kind of demi-god. I honestly believe the man is mentally ill.

      He treats Alexander like **** in front of everyone. He mocks and insults everyone in their face or behind their backs, including Ms. Zell (and more so her husband!!). He treat staff like **** and often mocks admin staff in public speeches. There was a gay Marketing VP that Muti refused to talk to. The guy was just trying to do his job and he ended up leaving.

      Everyone who does not adore him like a God is simply written off.

      Muti locks himself in his office or his hotel with just a couple of people (often only one!). This is during office hours when people are supposed to be at the office.

      The situation is really unbelievable.

      • Gustavo says:

        Has anyone ever thought that these character traits could also be a result of age-related dementia?

        In this case, the harshness with which Muti is currently being rated would not be justified.

        79 is a considerable age.

        Overconfidence, defiant behaviour, vulgar humour, sexism and narcissism are not uncommon in this know-it-all age class.

        It is the socio-cultural environment which produces these “poor old sods”.

        Of course, the simplest way out is to take on the role of victim.

        But bashing an individual in society seems pretty unfair and is just as inappropriate as one of Muti’s dick jokes.

      • JoshW says:

        So . . . pretty much like every other conductor?

      • Couperin says:

        And you are not exaggerating, as I said in a previous post. To back it up, just one little funny story: my former teacher was in Chicago playing extra percussion with the orchestra. This man is “retired” for all intents and purposes, with a long and storied freelance/contemporary/orchestral/studio career in NYC. The guy did it all and saw it all. World premieres from Messiaen etc,bworked with every conductor etc. He had nothing to prove and was playing CSO on a friendly invite from a colleague in the section.
        During rehearsal he was caught smiling/laughing at something or another. Muti singled him out from the whole orchestra and began questioning him, saying “How DARE you behave this way in this place…Is it not an HONOR to be playing with the Chicago Symphony???”, and apparently my teacher, completely unflummoxed and with a casual shrug of the shoulders said, “……sure!”

        I guess Muti didn’t really know what to do with that.

      • Jack says:

        Sounds like you know him well.

      • Mick the Knife says:

        He did manage to snag a pretty good principal horn and principal trumpet, which should count for something.

      • Cello says:

        I have known Muti well when he was somewhat younger. He very rarely smiles, and when he smiles it is to deride someone or something.

        He very much likes to talk dirty with small groups. He assumes that his dirty jokes are very funny.

        On the women many know the truth in Milan.

    • Le Křenek du jour says:

      > “ Muti after what we have seen this week has nothing to do here. Fuori! ”

      “Muti: fuori!”might lead to an embarrassing *malentendu*.

      In 1968, veteran author, screenwriter and director Mario Soldati published a book by the title of “Fuori”.
      At Mondadori, it was placarded at the entrance, as per custom, with just the author’s surname and the book’s title:
      This led to some farcical brouhaha, as many young conscripts on Christmas leave went to the bookshops looking for presents, only to find themselves put on notice : “Soldiers: Out”. This was too much, even for post-May ’68 Italy.

      In our sensitive times, any slogan inviting Maestro Muti to vacate the premises should be unambiguous; it must not be construed as intimating the eviction of mute or speech-impaired persons.

  • A.L. says:

    Tempest in a teacup, me thinks. As conductors, both men are long on the tooth. On one hand, Chailly began with promise and delivered something or other for a few years but did not develop into the remarkable force he was supposed to be. After a long career, very little, if anything, from him is considered referential, although I consider his Hindemith Kammermusik with the RCO a phenomenal achievement. It is impossible to tell a Chailly performance from a hundred others. On the other, up until about 30 years ago more or less, once could easily identify a Muti performance especially those from La Scala but Philly, too. He used to be able to draw out of the La Scala orchestra (and probably worked too alongside their chorusmaster) a very particular Italian sound that I can only describe as chiaroscuro. But that was then and this is now. His work with the Chicago has been as uneventful and uneven as can be. And so on. There is a retirement home for musicians nearby, Casa Verdi, that I am sure could accommodate both divas.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      Chailly is not a diva Muti Yes

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      Did you see recently Chailly in concert with La Scala??

    • Arturo says:

      “[Muti’s] successor”
      “both men”

      Have we already forgotten Barenboim, maestro scaligero 2006-2014?

      • Concertgebouw79 says:

        Yes you are right it was intelligent too call him even if he didn t do enough italien music. Even if there s a very good CD of the Verdi requiem. I think Chailly would have refused to come after the mess of the mid 2000, the moment Muti left town. But during that hard time I think it would have been better to call Chung.

      • Alviano says:

        An indignity best forgotten.

      • The View from America says:

        “Have we already forgotten Barenboim, maestro scaligero 2006-2014?”


    • Record Collector says:

      Yes, that Hindemith set (1990) is fine indeed. I can’t agree with the idea that Chailly has not developed or left a vital all-Decca recorded legacy, witness his: Gurre-Lieder (1985), the Pulcinella and Pétrouchka (1992 and 1993), La Cenerentola and Il turco in Italia with Bartoli (1992 and 1997), his hilarious and orchestral Petite messe solennelle (1993), the Pagliacci with Cura (1999), and the wonderful Brahms Serenades (2014).

      • Couperin says:

        I only worked with him once but my impression of him was really fantastic. You can see through the very self-important maestri like Muti very quickly; Chailly was friendly but firm, got results quickly by having the right balance of patience as well as throwing little hissy fits if people messed up (mostly students in a festival atmosphere), knew the music backwards and forwards, made almost NO mistakes, and in his speaking to the orchestra about the different composers we played, had very clear, detailed, and well thought out ideas and approaches for each. I’m not a big fan of Schoenberg but the way he spoke about his music, the manner of interpretation that he preferred, and the way he went about rehearsing the piece to bring these ideas to life was utterly convincing. I’d really love to play under him again. Mind you, I’m sure he behaved like “Mr. Nice Guy” for us, but the deep knowledge and experience was there.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      They’re all ‘stick wavers’, after all. Kleiber’s favourite moniker for his profession.

    • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

      I think someone needs to remake the movie QUARTET and set it in Casa Verdi.

      The retired maestros will be the two Ricardos, Daniel Bubblegum, and Zubin.

      Throw in a few guest appearances by Gustavo, Sir Simon, and Mirga and you have a movie that could make a buck or two at the now open movie houses.

  • Sharon says:

    Is it inappropriate for the conductor to address the audience after a concert or provide some educational background for the audience?

    • Barry says:

      That depends on the content and motivation.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Harnoncourt always started his performances with a little talk to the audience. In the Musikverein. I don’t know about elsewhere.

      • Ashu says:

        [Harnoncourt always started his performances with a little talk to the audience. In the Musikverein. I don’t know about elsewhere.]

        He did when he conducted the Toronto Symphony in Mozart’s Requiem in October two thousand.

    • Roberto says:

      When it’s like Muti does it – at EVERY SINGLE concert to pontificate nonsensical platitudes and self-serving bullshit – yeah it’s pretty inappropriate.

      It’s called logorrhea and it’s a typical clinical marker of a grandiose narcissistic personality disorder.

    • Gustavo says:

      No – we all have freedom of speech, don’t we.

    • BrianB says:

      99% of the time not only inappropriate but boring. The other 1% of the time reserved for special occasions (e.g. Last Night of the Proms if brief and pithy) or Sir Thomas Beecham who could do it with humor and pungent wit. And very few conductors possess either of those qualities.

  • Ernest says:

    Not true that Muti has not returned to La Scala in 16 years. He was there with the Chicago Symphony in Jan 2017 and drew an appreciative audience. I was there. But no excuse for his recent bad behaviour. I wonder if there was more than meets the eye?

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      When he can speak only when reading an autocue and falls up the steps of an airplane then you really need to worry!! When he says he’s been at La Scala for 120 years; there’s another reason to worry.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    December 7 was Pearl Harbor Day here in the US. The beginning of our involvement in WW II.

    Muti sure knows how to pick em!

    • Carlos Solare says:

      The La Scala season was being opened on December 7 (the feast of St. Ambroge, Milan’s patron saint) long before 1941.
      It was indeed in pretty bad taste for the Japanese to pick this of all days for their attack on Pearl Harbor.

      • Jack says:

        If the Japanese picked a different day for their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, killing thousands of people, would that have been better? Just wondering.

      • BrianB says:

        Beecham said something to the effect that the Nazis proved they were no music lovers by bombing the excellent sounding Queens Hall instead of the Albert Hall.

  • Chiara says:

    Muti has been back in La Scala on several occasions since his departure in 2005. I saw him conduct the CSO there in January 2020.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      He did several concerts with an interisting orchestra of young italian musicians. I saw a concert. It was interisting but maybe too slow and calm.

  • David Sanders says:

    “This was the first time Muti had performed at La Scala since his stormy departure 16 years ago.” Except for the performances with the Chicago Symphony in 2017 and 2020.

    • Lothario Hunter says:

      That was the tour when you Chicago guys played Dvořák “From the New World” (gives a sense of the Muti-CSO intelligent and innovative programming)?

      Maybe it wasn’t so memorable so the NL did not count it in the statistics?

    • Bill says:

      Amazing that anyone would downvote a simple statement of fact from someone who was there!

  • Alviano says:

    La scala = snake pit

  • CarlD says:

    I will eat my hat if this headline proves true. So much rumor-mongering …

    • Gustavo says:

      There is mostly news on Muti’s recent ROMY Award.

      But the Scala showdown also featured in the German FAZ – so there must have been an issue irrespective of the cause and direction of this cyber shit storm.

  • Monty Earleman says:

    The Maestro Myth continues…..

  • Aurelia Thompson says:

    Muti was an outsider in Milan despite being Music Director at La Scala. He had many enemies in Milan – looks like he still has. I should have been at that concert but was unable to go due to the current travel & quarantine restrictions.
    Interesting article here.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    So many pearl-clutchers out there these days!! I’d love to be in the pearl business just now!!

    • Bill says:

      Given the frequency with which you are seen clutching pearls here (no doubt imitation ones), that seems like a good fit for you.

  • Charles Clark-Maxwell says:

    That’s brilliant the stage staff not giving him a microphone. You always need those guys on your side !

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    A ban for life at his age is not necessarily a very long one.

  • Sixtus Beckmesser says:

    And Chicago’s stuck with him for the foreseeable future. More Cherubini, anyone?

  • Fastidious says:

    Oh – how the little music ‘journalist’ worm turns Norman…..you couldn’t lick his arse hard enough when interviewing him for BBC Radio 3 a few years back…..”Ricarrrrdo….amici” in his own home.

    Now look……once a tabloid ‘bottom-feeder’; always….

  • Amos says:

    Regrettably, the axiom that there is no fool greater than an old fool appears to have been validated again. The maestro has convinced himself that he and only he is the perfect amalgam of Toscanini and Furtwangler and as such he can do and say anything that comes to mind.

  • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

    Possible dementia. Test cognitive function, and do some brain-scans to diagnose or rule out stroke.

  • Victoria says:

    Rachsüchtiger Karrierist, der sein ganzes Leben lang auf Leichen wandelt … Ich hoffe, dass er bald etwas hat, um Gott zu antworten … Er hat an der Scala nichts zu suchen. Lass es für immer raus!

  • Fabrizio says:

    It is clear that many people are taking the opportunity of the «gossip» to say they do not like Muti. The real facts are told by two journalists who were actually present and that told how a single misleading comment leaked to a particular newspaper led to the tsunami. You can find the articles of the two journalists on IL FOGLIO and IL GIORNALE. They were among the few people who actually saw and listed to what really was told. There was friction but most tof the rest is dramatized as often happens around this environment, especially in Italy. Anybody, including the most talented and those who spend their life in Art, as Muti, Chailly and many others, should remain professional. In Italy we know pretty well how the LA SCALA environment is caustic as Unions are used as an excuse rather than to support. Unfortunately we know that most, if not all, the musicians who were playing in 2004 with Muti in the Orchestra raised their hand when it came to the fampus meeting to decide that Muti could no longer be their Music Director. And Muti knows very well that it is true still today as his entourage kept reporting. As an Italian Music lover, I am happy that Muti will conduct elsewhere than in LA SCALA as it has always been a nightmare to find tickets even using the right channels. I am a sad that, even with Baremboim or Chailly, LA SCALA is proving every day that they are mor einterest in politics than in Music making.

  • Gustavo says:

    Annus horribilis 2

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Snowflakes fade rapidly in Milan in May.

  • Brass player says:

    I’d pay money to see them get physical and slug it out!

  • Maria says:

    Stupid! Life is too short for rants like this.

  • Iberomesornis says:

    There’s a factual error here: Muti has performed several times at la Scala after his departure, the first in May 2005 with the Vienna Philharmonic. Since then he has come back with the CSO.

  • Couperin says:

    It’s gonna be a Battle of the ‘Buccos! Bring your bucatini and your buffo goggles, this one’s gonna be a doozy!

  • Edgar says:

    Two Nabuccos. Oy!

    Maybe an opera buffa might provide a bit of much needed levity: “La battaglia alla Scala”? Music: a Rossini pasticcio.

  • Kristen Hertel says:

    Is it possible Maestro Muti is developing a form of dementia? At his age anything is possible. Outbursts such as that could be prevented/lessened with medication. It’s a shame to let one humiliate oneself onstage.

  • Kristen Hertel says:

    Is it possible the man has dementia? The right medication could help. It’s a shame to see someone humiliate themself if that is the case.

    • Gustavo says:

      Reasonable assumption.

      This is what I wrote above to “Chicagorat” a few days ago:

      Has anyone ever thought that these character traits could also be a result of age-related dementia?

      In this case, the harshness with which Muti is currently being rated would not be justified.

      79 is a considerable age.

      Overconfidence, defiant behaviour, vulgar humour, sexism and narcissism are not uncommon in this know-it-all age class.

      It is the socio-cultural environment which produces these “poor old sods”.

      Of course, the simplest way out is to take on the role of victim.

      But bashing an individual in society seems pretty unfair and is just as inappropriate as one of Muti’s dick jokes.

  • Alton Foster says:

    Age, and it’s vicissitudes, conquer in the end.

  • Sad when it resorts to this. Perhaps the Greatest Living Conductor in my estimation with a few others within inches of Top decides to end his illustrious and glorious career like a petulant child?
    Vergogna, Riccardo.

  • Wannaplayguitar says:

    Oh yes….the suave Mr Mooti came to conduct the symphony orchestra of a certain prestigious London music college way, way back in late 1970’s. We were students, so what did we know? Nada. As he left the podium after a fraught 3hour rehearsal he snarled… ‘none of you will ever get jobs’. Was he being kind I wonder.?