The Italian conductor — who is also music director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London and principal guest conductor of the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden) — announced the news last Thursday (November 2), according to a report in the newspaper L'espresso.
"I have taken this decision solely for artistic reasons," Gatti said at a press conference, "convinced that the path I have traveled with the Comunale has arrived at its natural culmination, and at a moment when my relations with the orchestra and chorus are positive." The maestro stressed that he hoped to continue working at the theater in the future.
A new superintendent, 52-year-old composer Marco Tutino, was unexpectedly installed at the Comunale last month, and he holds the title of artistic director as well. Combination of the two positions is rare at Italian opera houses, though St_phane Lissner took on both responsibilities when he came to La Scala in Milan last year following the turmoil that led to the departure of then-music director Riccardo Muti.
In the turbulent Italian opera world, it would be natural to presume that Gatti's departure from Bologna was a direct consequence of Tutino's arrival. But both men insisted at last week's press conference that the parting is amicable.
Gatti pointed out that he and Tutino have known each other since their studies at the Milan Conservatory and that they worked together 14 years ago at the Milan orchestra I Pomeriggi Musicali. "I am unhappy," Gatti said, "that my last year here coincides with his first."
"I cannot thank Gatti enough," Tutino said in turn, "My wish is that you maintain a connection with this theater, and my availability [to you] will be complete. This is not a farewell, but [merely] a transformation in the state of your relationship with this opera house."
Bologna mayor Sergio Cofferati, who is ex officio the head of the foundation that governs the Teatro Comunale, reinforced the sentiment, thanking Gatti "for the high-profile artistic work you've done over these years ... [and for] your availability to continue a relationship with the Comunale and with the musical history of this city."
Gatti's well-regarded work during his decade at the Comunale, along with his visibility abroad as a symphonic conductor, have increased national and international recognition of the Bologna opera house, which can't help but cast a competitive eye toward La Scala.
Tutino told the assembled journalists that he was in no hurry to select a new music director: "I am against rapid replacements in principle. I will take a bit of time to reflect; this is not a position in which you can insert just anyone, and to find someone at Gatti's artistic level is not easy."
If he fills the position at all, that is. Tutino allowed as how the current situation at La Scala — where Lissner has chosen to do without a music director, instead maintaining relationships with a stable of high-powered guest conductors such as Daniel Barenboim, Lorin Maazel, Daniel Harding and Gatti himself (who conducts Verdi's Don Carlo there to open the 2008 season) — "could be a model to follow."
For his part, the 44-year-old Gatti, whose contract with the Royal Philharmonic expires in 2009, said that for the time being, he is not looking for any permanent appointment anywhere — including the US, where several choice orchestra music directorships (Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit) are available. "I am poor at being a socialite," he told journalist Carlo Vitali, "and thus not suited for the American pattern of fundraising. I also tend to suffer from homesickness. So, despite the excellent level of US orchestras, I have decided to fly there only every other season."
Meanwhile, Gatti continues rehearsals for Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, which officially opens the Comunale's season on November 18, the feast of Bologna's patron, St. Petronio.