After wrapping up the inaugural season of his new opera academy in Ravenna, Riccardo Muti headed to Oviedo, Spain, where he received a special serenade: five bagpipers and a drummer greeted the maestro with a rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

Muti, who turned 74 on July 28, applauded the musicians, dressed in traditional folk garb of Asturias, an autonomous community in northern Spain. The music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra came to Oviedo, the capital of Asturias, to lead two performances of Verdi’s Falstaff, featuring his Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra. Declaring his fondness for the city where in 2011 he received the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts, he emphasized that Oviedo “is linked to important memories of my artistic life.”

The Falstaff performances are at the Campoamor Theatre, which has “a great history and closely is linked to Verdi,” Muti’s favorite composer. “It’s his most important opera, more difficult and more complicated and also his final work, which sums up his artistic life,” he said in an interview with the publication La Nueva Espana. “It tells us his way of thinking and looking at life, the history of man. It is an important cultural contribution to Italy as well as Spain.”

In Falstaff, which Muti also will present with the CSO in April, Verdi referenced Mozart, Haydn and Paisiello, and musical language almost up “to the impressionism of Debussy,” he said. “Above all, we must remember Verdi, the man who thinks after a life full of successes and triumphs, realizes in the end that everything in the world is ridiculous. Falstaff is not a comic opera, he said but “it makes you smile, and the conclusion is bitter, not sweet.”

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

TOP: In Oviedo, Riccardo Muti applauds bagpipers as they wish him a happy birthday. | Screenshot from La Nueva Espana