Workers at La Scala have been on strike—which has forced the cancellation of the season's premiere performances—since superintendent Carlo Fontana was fired by the opera's board, ostensibly because he clashed so frequently with Muti.
Fontana was replaced with Mauro Meli, former director of La Scala's theatrical division.
Muti opened his letter recalling that it was a group of musicians that asked him to head the orchestra, and that he would not have consented to take the position, he claims, except that it was the musicians who asked him. He described the work of leading the orchestra as "intense, unremitting, and exhausting, but always constructive and filled with joy, because the musicians were driven by an immense desire to improve, collaborate, and advance along a shared path."
Along with the improvement he brought about in the orchestra, Muti said, came what he perceived to be a "slow but inexorable decline in the quality of the artistic program," which he protested to the opera's board. He denied that he had any ambitions to be the company's artistic director, or to take over the position of superintendent himself.
Instead, he said, he thought of Meli, who had collaborated with Claudio Abbado at Ferrara Musica, and had been general manager at the Cagliari Opera House in Sardinia as someone who would be good for La Scala. Meli, he said, "has earned the attention and praise of public and critics for the intelligence has has demonstrated at the theater," and added "he is not, and has never been, my personal friend, as some have claimed."
Of the claims that Muti had vetoed the appearance of celebrated conductors at La Scala, he said, "The accusation is so insulting it deserves no response," although he says he regularly invited such conductors as Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Lorin Maazel, Simon Rattle, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Pierre Boulez, and others, even though it was not the job of the music director to do so (only the superintendent can schedule guest conductors).
Muti reiterated that although he worried about the quality of the productions at La Scala and disturbed by the "not always flattering comments about La Scala" that he heard, he did not impose his will at any point, and "even had I wanted to, the law does not give me that power."
Muti ended by saying, "I will make no comment on the many other untruths that certain newspapers have reported, for they do nothing to clear the air or create an atmosphere of harmonious dialogue. I trust that a constructive way forward will be sought for the good of La Scala, of those who truly bring the theater to life with their work, and of the people of Milan, who are alarmed an bewildered."