Scroll down for 3 May update.
Once again, mes poules: Let's have fun with this story while it lasts.
Riccardo Muti returned to La Scala tonight for the first time since he was forced to resign as music director, leading the Vienna Philharmonic in works by Haydn and Scriabin. Il corriere della sera reported that the concert was projected onto a giant screen in the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II to accomodate the thousands turned away from the sold-out event.
ANSA, the Italian news agency, offered this initial report:
A frenzied public applauded Riccardo Muti, who returned to La Scala this evening with the Vienna Philharmonic. While "his" orchestra had demanded his resignation, the audience paid homage to the maestro, shouting every possible compliment: "Bravi," "Bravo," "You are great," "You are a wonder." They stamped their feet and applauded rhythmically with such insistence that the maestro decided to offer an encore, launching into the overture to Verdi's La forza del destino.
3 May update: In the main Corriere coverage, Laura Dubini wrote that the atmosphere was like that of 7 December (the feast of Sant'Ambrogio, La Scala's traditional opening night).
Muti did not use his old dressing room but the guest conductors' quarters. Among the numerous floral arrangements was a bouquet from the Amici del Loggione* of 47 roses—one apiece for the 47 operas Muti conducted at La Scala, each decorated with a ribbon on which were printed the opera's title and "Grazie, Maestro."
* [The standing-room club, more or less.]
Some days before the concert, Muti told an Austrian paper, "Had it been any other orchestra, I would have cancelled the La Scala concert. But I'm going with the Wiener Philharmoniker, a great orchestra made up of friends. And I'm going out of respect for the public."
The final ovation, led by the Wiener Philharmoniker themselves, lasted some ten minutes.
In another Corriere article, Gianni Santucci quoted the inconditionnels who gathered in the Galleria:
"Let them say what they want at the Vatican: 'Morto un papa, se ne fa un altro.'* Full stop: Here the Pope isn't dead. They drove him away. And we want him back."
* ["Life goes on," lit., "When one Pope dies, they make another."]
Domenico Carlucci of Milano explained, "Italians have no self-esteem. They have a very low opinion of themselves. And here's the proof: Milano sent the Maestro packing, without realizing what an immense loss this was."
Rosaria Impenna, a teacher, declared: "I'm on the Left, but unions musn't have such great power that they can drive a figure of [Muti's] stature to resign."
Muti continues on tour with the Wiener to Cologne, Paris, and Vienna. He leads Hindemith's Sancta Susanna at the Ravenna Festival, and a program including the prologue to Boito's Mefistofele with vilaine fille coqueluche Ildebrando d'Arcangelo in Sabratha, Libya. In December, he conducts Le nozze di Figaro in Vienna.
vilaine fille predicts that the upshot of this whole tsimmes for New York will be… poco o nulla. Then again, she didn't believe that the 1998 Yankees were for real until they swept the [non-Yankees, I can't tell them apart] in the World Series.*
* [Paulie, Paulie, when will we see your like again? You were a man.]
Incidentally, Opera Today reviews the DVD of Verdi's Attila led by Muti. Author Kenneth Meltzer remarks:
What a pleasure it is to hear an early Verdi score treated with the same respect as his later masterpieces. Verdi's incisive rhythms and dynamic contrasts—so necessary for maintaining the tension of these early, vibrant works—are given their full due. Muti also elicits a beautiful, singing tone from the La Scala Orchestra, and conducts with a flexibility that belies the "metronome" criticism often leveled at his work.
Et puis voilà !
Added 4 May: Financial Times review by George Loomis.