Riccardo Muti, Zell Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, returns to the Teatro di San Carlo to conduct Mozart’s Così fan tutte, which, it has been said, “he knows note by note and word by word.” The new production, which opens Nov. 25 and runs to Dec. 2, is a co-presentation with the Vienna State Opera.

The production represents a felicitous turn of events for Muti. The Teatro di San Carlo, established in 1737, is in Naples, the city of his birth. The opera is traditionally set in Naples, as is the case for this staging. Muti appeared in this theater with the CSO on their 2012 tour to Italy and Russia. And joining him this time will be his daughter, Chiara Muti, who is directing the production.

In addition, Muti has a long history with Così, which he conducted early his career. In his autobiography, Muti talks about his approach to the opera:  “I . . . took Lorenzo Da Ponte’s libretto as my point of departure, and from his words arrived at Mozart’s music.” Furthermore, Muti stands as a stellar example of Neapolitan culture, and as an advocate for the music of the Neapolitan School, including 18th-century composers Giovanni Paisiello and Domenico Cimarosa.

At San Carlo, the cast features Maria Bengtsson (Fiordiligi), Paola Gardina (Dorabella), Alessio Arduini (Guglielmo), Pavel Kolgatin (Ferrando), Emmanuelle de Negri (Despina) and Marco Filippo Romano (Don Alfonso).

The third of Mozart’s operas with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, Così takes a satirical view of love as it follows two couples as they test their fidelity. It features some of Mozart’s most glorious music, including the trio Soave sia il vento and the arias Come scoglio and Un’aura amorosa.

In an interview with the Italian publication Corriere della Sella, Muti discussed his bonds to Naples, the San Carlo orchestra and chorus, and the opera house itself. “The orchestra is working very well,” he said. “I found it much improved, rejuvenated. Also, even the small choir [engaged for this production] is excellent. It is a modernized theater, more international in its attitude, in the way of being, in the discipline. Also, as I have always said, it is the most beautiful theater in  the world.”

TOP: Riccardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Teatro di San Carlo in 2012. | ©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2012