Chicago Symphony's first season under Riccardo Muti
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has been without a music director for close to four years. Starting in September, that will all change when conductor Riccardo Muti assumes the top artistic post of the venerated institution. On Thursday afternoon, the Italian maestro met with the news media as part of the orchestra's announcement of its 2010-11 roster.
Among the highlights of the season will be a monthlong celebration of Muti that will include concerts, free events and open rehearsals; a concert production of Verdi's "Otello"; as well as appearances by conductors who are familiar to Los Angeles audiences: Esa-Pekka Salonen and James Conlon.
Muti, who currently is conducting "Attila" at the Metropolitan Opera, told reporters Thursday that he would be in Chicago only briefly this week before heading back to New York.
The conductor will kick off his inaugural season with the CSO with a free concert in Millennium Park on Sept. 19. The program will feature the overture to Verdi's "La Forza del Destino"; Respighi's "Pines of Rome"; and Lizst's "Les préludes, Symphonic Poem No. 3."
That same month, Muti will conduct four performances of an all-Berlioz concert featuring the Symphonie Fantastique and "Lélio, or the Return to Life," which will be narrated by actor Gerard Depardieu.
In all, Muti will lead 10 weeks of subscription programming with the CSO, as well as community and free
events and concerts outside of Chicago.
"Otello" will be performed in April 2011 in Chicago and Carnegie Hall in New York.
When asked by a journalist why he wanted to perform an opera with the orchestra, Muti said that in the U.S., "opera has always been considered another world. ... So symphony orchestras generally almost do only symphonic work. For a symphonic orchestra to play opera is fundamental."
Salonen will appear with the orchestra in February and March 2011 to conduct his Violin Concerto, a co-commission with the CSO and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and other works. Leila Josefowicz will perform as soloist.
Conlon is scheduled to conduct concerts in April 2011 of a new work by Osvaldo Golijov as well as pieces by Sibelius and Shostakovich.
The last person to hold the position of music director of the CSO was Daniel Barenboim, who stepped down in 2006 after close to 15 years.
During Thursday's news conference, which was webcast live, the CSO touched briefly on some aspects of its financial health.
The orchestra said subscriptions have experienced a slight drop, but added that single-ticket sales are up. It also said last year's finances concluded "in a very positive position."
-- David Ng
Photo: Riccardo Muti responds to a question Thursday in Chicago with CSO Assn. President Deborah F. Rutter. Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press