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April 2014
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Muti on The Tuesday Night Opera


Tuesday at 8:00 pm

Riccardo Muti has a favorite story about stepping in to conduct Mozart’s Così fan tutte at the 1982 Salzburg Festival. For over 20 years that particular work had been the domain of the late, eminent Karl Böhm. The Austrian press put the young Muti on the spot, asking him how his “Cozy fan TOO tay” would differ from Maestro Böhm’s. The outsider’s response nearly triggered a feeding frenzy in Mozart’s hometown: “Maestro Böhm conducted ‘Cozy fan TOO tay.’ I will conduct ‘Co ZEE fan toot tay.'”

We in Chicago have come to love Riccardo Muti for his brass. But that story is less about cheekiness, than about Muti’s assuredness in his native language. The libretto of Così was one of three by the great Italian poet Lorenzo Da Ponte that resulted in the culminating achievements of Mozart’s short life, the other two being Don Giovanni and Le nozze di Figaro.

In his autobiography, Riccardo Muti described the 1970s Salzburg approach to opera as something “which focuses on the music, making the notes envelop the lyrics. I, on the contrary, took Lorenzo Da Ponte’s libretto as my point of departure, and from his words arrived at Mozart’s music.”

Had the performances not been universally acclaimed, deferring to Lorenzo Da Ponte at the 1982 Salzburg Festival could have spelled the end of Muti’s career. Instead, that production heralded a changing of the guard; Muti had come home. In the coming seasons, the Vienna Philharmonic would record all three Da Ponte/Mozart operas with Riccardo Muti: Così fan tutte, Le nozze di Figaro, and Don Giovanni.

In Don Giovanni the unlucky duo of Leporello and the Don are sung by Samuel Ramey and William Shimell in a recording from 1991. The Don’s three conquests are sung by Cheryl Studer, Carol Vaness, and Natale de Carolis.

Hear Muti’s recording of Don Giovanni on The Tuesday Night Opera starting at 8:00 pm.

Download an Italian/English of Don Giovanni: dongiovanni

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