After outstanding performances in June of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony and Te Deum in Chicago, Riccardo Muti returned home to Ravenna, Italy, where he immersed himself in teaching the next generation of young musicians before heading to Austria for his 250th concert appearance at the renowned Salzburg Festival.
Founded by Muti in 2004, the Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini consists of a select group of Italian musicians, all under the age of 30. Muti is passionate about this program that offers training as well as extraordinary performance opportunities at distinguished venues worldwide — thanks to his international reputation — in cities that include Vienna, Paris, Moscow, Salzburg, Barcelona, Buenos Aires and Abu Dhabi. In addition, the Cherubini Orchestra is a fixture at the Ravenna Festival.
Muti’s summer residency began with leading auditions to fill positions opened by those completing their three-year residencies with the orchestra. Auditions were followed by two performances at the Ravenna Festival. The first concert on July 3 was part of La vie dell’Amicizia (The Paths of Friendship), a festival project since 1997, in which Muti uses music to bring social awareness and healing to war-torn and poverty-stricken areas worldwide. This concert was a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Japanese-Italian relations ratified by the joint signing of a treaty in 1866. With thoughtful remarks and a moment of silence, Muti dedicated the performance to the victims, most of whom were Japanese and Italian, of the Bangladesh terrorist attack on July 1.
Several dozen Japanese musicians from the Tokyo-Harusai Festival Orchestra joined the Cherubini Orchestra and the choruses of the Teatro Petruzzelli di Bari, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Voci Bianche dell’Accademia Teatro alla Scala for a performance of music by Verdi and the Prologue from Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele, starring bass Ildar Abdrazakov. That same evening, the Japanese ambassador to Italy presented Muti with Japan’s highest honor, the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, on behalf of the Japanese Imperial Court.
On July 5, Muti led the Cherubini Orchestra in a concert that featured performances by former CSO Principal Bassoon David McGill, first in Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto (K. 191) and later Francesco Cappa’s Fantasy on Themes from Il trovatore. The 1854 manuscript of this work was recently found in Naples, Italy, at the library of the San Pietro a Majella Conservatory, Muti’s alma mater, and his source for the scores of other rare masterworks. Nineteenth-century Naples was a center for the production of woodwind instruments as well as woodwind virtuosos such as Cappa. “Performing the Cappa Fantasy was a dream come true because it allowed me to perform as an ‘opera’ soloist in Verdi with the greatest Verdi conductor in the world,” McGill said. “Maestro Muti has told me how he appreciates my ‘singing’ style of playing the bassoon.”
Next, Muti traveled with the Cherubini Orchestra to Savonlinna, Finland, for a concert July 17 at St. Olaf’s Castle. Now home to a vibrant summer music festival, the castle features the kind of resounding acoustics that only a 15th-century stone fortress could provide.
In late July, Muti returned to Ravenna to introduce the new roster of conductors, singers and répétiteurs selected to participate in his second annual Italian Opera Academy. This year, more than 400 applications came from all over the world. Renowned soprano Renata Scotto was present to serve on the jury and to coach the singers selected for the program. The academy opened with Muti at the piano discussing Verdi’s La traviata, and closed, after two weeks of rigorous study, with the young conductors leading scenes from the same opera with select young singers, bolstered by professional vocalists, and the Cherubini Orchestra.
Amidst his teaching, Muti took a moment on July 28 to celebrate his 75th birthday with family, friends and the young musicians participating in the program. Muti marked this milestone doing what inspires him most: mentoring the next generation of musicians. “I had the good fortune to learn from my contacts with great singers, great conductors and great soloists. I was lucky enough to meet the greatest opera performers when I was very young,” said Muti, who is certainly paying it forward as he shares his experience with emerging artists.
For more information about the Italian Opera Academy, please visit www.riccardomutimusic.com/eng/opera-academy.asp