Riccardo Muti: In our anthem, every note is filled with pain

Riccardo Muti: In our anthem, every note is filled with pain


norman lebrecht

December 05, 2021

Crowds turned out in southern Milano to watch the veteran maestro rehearse Nabucco, while La Scala prepares its opening Macbeth.

Corriere’s reporter has a verbatim report of the rehearsal here.

Two injunctions caught our eye.

One is Muti berating a singer: ‘No excuses, pronounce, follow me…. You already sang Nabucco? Don’t tell me with whom! Not with me!’

The other is a homily on Va, pensiero:

‘Every note must be filled with pain. All in a whisper, Peppino wrote it, not me. Legato! The pauses are sighs, not silences, they are a voice that breaks with emotion, not a moron who leaves a word unfinished. But think about it, they wanted to make it the anthem of Italy. Can you imagine the national football team on the pitch, (captain Lorenzo) Insigne singing the anthem of a slave people, who dream of freedom? Long then! Five minutes. And the referee and sixty thousand people waiting. We have been discussing it for years… ‘.


  • MB says:

    There is another vintage Muti quote in the article: “Did you understand, you who come from great academies? Hochschule here, Hochschule there, you don’t understand s***, Italian theater is something else”.

    («Avete capito, voi che venite dalle grandi accademie? Hochschule di qua, Hochschule di là, non sapete un cacchio, il teatro italiano è un’altra cosa».)

    Muti recently was in Japan on tour with the Wiener; there, they honored him with a presentation of female singers interpreting traditional Japanese music. He told a friend of mine in Ravenna that they sounded like “female animals in labor”.

    A vulgar man with vulgar thoughts. An delirious balloon filled with maleodorant air. A repellent clown.

    • Gustavo says:

      Vulgar he may be, but what he says is true.

      • Lauren says:

        You mean, Japanese singers singing traditional Japanese music do actually sound like animals in labor?

        • MD says:

          Is there any reason that among all the Muti’s quotes from the article, you decided that Gustavo was referring to the only one not contained in it, which came with the supreme validation of having been “told to a friend of mine in Ravenna”?

  • Terence says:

    The YouTube video represents Muti well. Very precise and technically polished; remarkably dull, tedious, monotonous.

    I stopped going to his concerts in Chicago long ago.

  • Richard Master says:

    Wait, who the f is Peppino?

  • Chicagorat says:

    Muti is a distinguished scholar and teacher of Verdi. He often leaves the most insightful lessons for the male singers’ “locker room”; in such settings, he explains why his favorite Verdi aria is “Rivedrai le foreste imbalsamate”.

    Vulgarity is not the best word to describe him. Rather, one can say that Muti redefines baseness in the world of classical music.

  • Franco says:

    Insigne is not the team captain, pay attention maestro and stop the moronic nonsense

  • gimel says:

    I can’t wait to see the Hebrew slaves dressed in Prada.

    Wearing high heels is suffering too.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    The years have not mellowed this man. The anger he expresses does reflect the life he was blessed with. He is not content with being one of the last men standing. The picture of Toscanini in the Sala Gialla is aging with more grace than the picture in the attic of Maestro Malcontento. I have been in his presence many times. Moments which should have been triumphs for me were ruined by this man sucking all of the air out of the room. He doesn’t want to and never has collaborated with another musician or director. It has always been “Look at me, Look at me!” from the very beginning. Little Caesar with a stick.

  • Dick says:

    There is an older video of him conducting this – used to be on You Tube – where he goes totally beserk. Musically staggering. I don’t know where it went.

  • justsaying says:

    fifty years of “no excuses, follow me” have done a lot to give us the crashing bore that is Italians singing Italian opera today.

  • kuma says:

    Muti’s got the Toscanini Complex. I love it.

  • Cantantelirico says:


  • Edoardo says:

    Our anthem?? What our anthem??

  • Aurelia says:

    I was sorry not to have been able to get to Milan for these sessions, but unfortunately am ill ….
    I believe Muti is referring to those people in Italy who have wanted to replace the current Italian national anthem with Va Pensiero. He has indeed discussed this in the past, often humourously, and dismissed it on the grounds that Va Pensiero is much too slow and long to be played, for example at a football match.

    This is the clip of Muti conducting the overture of Nabucco in his younger days.

    • Rafa Bazzo says:

      Even the original article of “della Sera” is positive about him, and leads to the mentioned context by you, Aurelia.

      Nevermind. We can not do anything when the article under analysis is deeply antagonist in the English version.

      • Chicagorat says:

        The slavish Corriere della Sera was positive about Muti? That is unheard of.

        At first, we were surprised that Valerio Cappelli – only paralleled by Hedi Weiss in sycophancy – did not author this piece of high journalism. But then we remembered he was probably at Fondazione Prada, kissing Muti’s arse in person.