Riccardo Muti leads a master class at the Ravenna Festival, July 2015.

On the first day of his new academy for Italian opera, Riccardo Muti offered plenty of sage advice to his students.

Founded by Maestro Muti, the academy launched its first season in July. Along with preparing for its inaugural production, a concert version of Verdi’s Falstaff on July 27, Muti will lead sessions for conductors, opera coaches and singers. “I opened this academy to pass on to young people the methods and [the benefits] of my experience with my teacher, Antonino Votto,” said Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, in an article published July 11 in Italy’s La Repubblica.

Votto, Muti reminded his students, was the assistant to the great maestro Arturo Toscanini, who in turn had first-hand experience with Verdi himself. So the opera academy, Muti hopes, will continue a great tradition of fostering Italian opera.

As usual, Muti was quick with the quips. Don’t develop the habit of turning up the little finger of the hand holding the baton when conducting, he cautioned. Also, an orchestra needs to feel its maestro. “I do not know why, it’s a magical thing, but it’s true: If you [push], the orchestra will sound hard,” he said. “Be gentle, free, and it will be [a better] orchestra.”

And most of all, when performing Verdi, everything is in the score. “The most important thing is to make sense of the phrases.”

To read the full article (in Italian), click here.

TOP: Riccardo Muti works with students at his newly established opera academy in Ravenna, Italy. | Photo: La Repubblica