Italy: first premiere La Scala prepping in two decades without Muti

La Scala opens its new season Wednesday on a youthful note 29-year-old Daniel Harding will be at the podium instead of Riccardo Muti, the maestro who ushered in the opera house's seasons for two decades before quitting this year in a flap.

The British conductor will lead an energetic interpretation of Mozart's "Idomeneo," taking his inspiration from rock, said La Scala orchestra musicians after a dress rehearsal, the Rome daily La Repubblica reported.

It is the first season opener in 19 years without Muti. He resigned earlier this year as La Scala's music director after a stormy period that saw the curtain stay down on several occasions because musicians refused to play with him. La Scala workers had accused him of trying to turn the Temple of Bel Canto into his personal fiefdom.

Comments by orchestra members suggested the tension had faded away. "Harding is humanely pleasing," Danilo Rossi, one of the musicians, told La Repubblica. "But what is more important is that his Mozart is very modern it takes inspiration from rock, it's rhythmic and at the same time expressive."

Muti stepped down in a dispute triggered by the dismissal of superintendent Carlo Fontana, who had a difficult relationship with the conductor.

La Scala's new superintendent and artistic director, Stephane Lissner, who is French, acknowledged that the behind-the-scenes drama at La Scala earlier this year had ratcheted up expectations ahead of the season opener.

"Sure, a similar wait doesn't exist in any other theater in the world, not in New York or in London or in Paris," Lissner was quoted as saying by Milan daily Corriere della Sera. "But this is Italy, land of passions, vital and even irrational. That's OK."

Lissner said La Scala was showing up for its annual glittering appointment "without tensions, without the usual union turbulence."

No single conductor will dominate the podium during the season. Veteran conductors, including Lorin Maazel and Daniel Barenboim, will take turns directing the orchestra along with such young conductors as Gustavo Dudamel, reported AP. P.T.

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