Riccardo Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, hails the legacy of musicologist Philip Gossett, who died June 13 at age 75. He and Gossett, a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago and an acclaimed scholar of Italian opera, were longtime collaborators. The CSO is dedicating its season-closing concerts June 22-25 of Italian opera masterpieces, conducted by Muti, to Gossett’s honor.
In the New York Times obituary of Professor Gossett, Muti called the musicologist’s work “a blessing for the conductors [who] wanted, really, to bring back a certain dignity to the scores, to bring back the original ideas of the composers.” A pioneer in the field of scholarly critical editions of opera scores, Gossett was responsible for new editions of works by Verdi and Rossini.
Known for his faithful adherence to scores, Muti pointed out that many Italian operas had become tainted by questionable revisions and incorrect performance traditions. “There were all these changes that, if you were to do them in Mozart, or in Wagner, or in Strauss, you would be killed, completely crucified,” he said. “But in the Italian repertoire, all these things had been permitted.”
Meanwhile, in a tribute published this week on the blog Gramilano, luminaries of the opera world, including Jennifer Larmore, Chris Merritt and Luca Pisaroni, among others, shared memories of Philip Gossett. The article also quoted Gossett himself, who once said, “I’m very fortunate that I came along at a time when there are performers around who take [opera] seriously and perform it well.”