Riccardo Muti leaves Rome Opera

Conductor Riccardo Muti has written to the director of Rome's Teatro dell' Opera saying that he can not guarantee his next two engagements, Verdi's Aida scheduled for November and Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro set for next spring because of the difficulties at the opera theatre. Italy's star conductor leaves after six years at the Teatro dell'Opera. However the surprise is not that he has left but that he stayed so long.

Rome's opera house has never been an easy place to work and has been afflicted by financial and union difficulties for decades. It was therefore unexpected that Muti ever agreed to take the job.

Before coming to Rome Muti had left Milan's La Scala under similar circumstances with both the management and the unions. And it is no secret that almost all of Italy's major opera houses are plagued by administrative, financial and labour difficulties. Rome however has always had a particularly bad reputation and the quality of its productions has never been up to the high standards of the north. It was hoped that Muti might be able to change this.

Il Teatro dell'Opera has been fortunate to have had this internationally known conductor for so long but he is a demanding master who is known to favour his own stars and prodigees, among them his daughter Chiara who recently directed Puccini's Madame Lascaut, one of this summer's productions that was threatened by union protests.

His departure will damage the reputation of the rebellious opera house still further, as his name was a guarantee of large audiences, and it will be seen as another failure for the city. Both the head of the opera house, Carlo Fuortes, who has been in the job for less than a year, and the mayor, Ignazio Marino, have said that they hope he might return when the problems have been resolved.

Muti, who is 73, says that he will dedicate his time instead to his Luigi Cherubini orchestra that he founded for the formation of young professional musicians. He is also still the principal conductor of the Chicago symphony orchestra.