7-30 May 2005. Conducted by Semyon Bychkov, directed by Luca Ronconi, with Felicity Palmer, Deborah Polaski, Anne Schwanewilms and Robert Brubaker.

The soap opera at the opera house.

The news that Riccardo Muti had resigned as musical director of the La Scala opera theatre in Milan a post that he had filled since 1986 had been expected for some time in music circles as the inevitable conclusion of on ongoing saga that began in July 2003.

The initial tension was between Carlo Fontana, the head of the theatre and Muti, the musical director. Fontana struggled for a difficult balance between high-quality music and more popular works that would fill the theatre and bring in the money; Muti pursued a high artistic ideal, forgetting that when money runs short, even music has to make compromises.

To mediate between the two, Mauro Mieli, ex-superintendent of the opera theatre in Cagliari, Sardinia, was called in, but after a short truce (which lasted just long enough to cover the opening of the renovated opera house in December last year), things went from bad to worse. Fontana, whose term in office was coming to an end, did not have enough authority to counteract Mieli who was behaving as if he were the superintendent. Under pressure from Muti, the managing board sacked Fontana nine months before his contract was due to end and nominated Mieli as the new superintendent. La Scalas employees protested and asked for the resignation of the board and Mieli, whom they considered unqualified for his new post with only a diploma in guitar to his name, plus a e24 million deficit accumulated during his time as head of the Cagliari opera theatre. Soon afterwards the orchestra also passed an overwhelming vote of no confidence in Muti, refusing to play at several concerts and boycotting the first nights of the new opera season. On 2 April Muti resigned.

Whatever the outcome and hopefully there will be a happy ending the image of the Teatro alla Scala has been seriously damaged both at home and abroad. Paolo Di Nicola

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Address Teatro alla Scala, tel. 0288791.

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Elektra by R. Strauss.

Teatro alla Scala, tel. 0288791.