The annual summer arts festival in Florence, Italy, not only presented the debut of Muti, now music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, it also served as his first professional home, where he was principal conductor and music director from 1969 to 1981.
Regarded as classical music’s leading Verdi interpreter, Muti has conducted Macbeth more often than any other opera in his career, including acclaimed concert stagings of the work with the CSO in the 2013-14 season. “The words of Shakespeare and the music of Giuseppe Verdi make me grateful to these two geniuses of art,” Muti said in a recent interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. “Macbeth contains, above all, the joy of the throne, the scepter. … Over the years, I have staged many editions of Macbeth, and every time I return to this opera, I realize that one never finishes digging into its characters.”
Joining Muti in this concert staging of Macbeth is a cast of acclaimed international soloists: baritone Luca Salsi (Macbeth), soprano Vittoria Yeo (Lady Macbeth), Francesco Meli (Macduff) and Riccardo Zanellato (Banquo). The choir director is Lorenzo Fratini. CSO audiences will remember Salsi for his memorable performances under Muti in Macbeth (2013) and Falstaff (2016), as well as Meli (Macbeth in 2013) and Zanellato in the 2016-17 season finale of Italian opera favorites, including the Prologue from Boito’s Mefistofele. Next year, Meli will return to Chicago as Radamès in the CSO’s concert stagings of Verdi’s Aida, conducted by Muti.
In the Maggio Musicale program book for the Macbeth concerts, Muti reflects on his long relationship with the festival and its home city. “In Florence, for me, everything was born. … You believed in me when I was still [an unknown]. I am profoundly grateful toward Florence.”
TOP: Riccardo Muti leads the CSO’s concert staging of Verdi’s Macbeth (with Luca Salsi and Francesco Meli) in September 2013. | Todd Rosenberg Photography 2013