La Scala Will Not Replace Muti Right Away, Lissner Says

Classic Arts News   La Scala Will Not Replace Muti Right Away, Lissner Says
In an interview this week with the New York Times, St_phane Lissner, new general director at Teatro alla Scala, said that the opera company would not immediately replace music director Riccardo Muti, who resigned last month.

Instead, Lissner said, La Scala would work closely over the next three years with three or four guest conductors.

"A new music director will emerge naturally in his relations with the orchestra, and in his relations with me," Lissner told the Times. "You can't just impose one. It's not just a question of talent as a conductor, but also of human relations."

Muti resigned after a protracted standoff with La Scala's workers and musicians, who went on strike, boycotting every premiere, after the opera house fired general manager Carlo Fontana.

"Muti is part of the history of La Scala," Lissner said. "Things ended badly, but he played a key role as a great conductor and music director. But that doesn't mean we must immediately find a replacement. That would be a mistake."

La Scala's musicians seem pleased with Lissner's decision. Sandro Malatesta, a trumpet player with the orchestra and the musician's union representative, said he would welcome "a gust of novelty" from new conductors such as James Levine, music director of the Metropolitan Opera and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, "who has never conducted here and I don't know why."

In the interview, Lissner also spoke about programming for the opera house (La Scala, at his request, made his job a combination of general-director and artistic-director duties). In addition to making changes to next season's program, he has most of 2006-07 to plan as well.

Lissner, who is music director of the Vienna Festival and has been director of the Aix-en-Provence opera festival since 1997, said he would continue La Scala's tradition of repertory dominated by Italian works, with a strong Wagner presence, but he also plans to slowly introduce 20th-century works by composers such as Janšcek, Berg, and Britten.

"To change everything would be a serious mistake," he said. "With a grand old lady like La Scala, you have to go gently."

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