Oct 23, 2013 10:11 PM EDT | Logan K. Young
UPDATE: Now, Italy's La Reppublica is reporting that Genoese maestro Fabio Luisi--principal conductor of the Met since September 2011 (i.e. from whence James Levine withdrew)--may very well be the preferred candidate. Call it "commedia dell'errori."
If the mounties are known for always getting their man, the same is often decidedly untrue in the murky world of opera house politics. But at La Scala, Italy's premiere house, they have pulled one heck of a triumph out of the hat and, reports Italy's influential Corriere della Sera (no official announcement from Milan yet), persuaded Riccardo Chailly to take up the mantle when Daniel Barenboim leaves.
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That should be at the very start of 2017. Though, for some reason, Corriere thinks that Barenboim might go earlier (he does already have one opera house--the Staatsoper Berlin--to guide). Thus, Chailly will take his place in an impressive line of music directors, one which before Barenboim includes Riccardo Muti, Claudio Abbado, Carlo Maria Giulini, Victor de Sabata, Tulio Serafin and Arturo Toscanini.
Chailly has the pedigree. He was born in Milan, studied at the conservatory there and eventually became assistant conductor to Abbado at La Scala. And yet he's an interesting case--a top conductor, nobody seriously doubts that, but one who has never quite punched at his weight in terms of international prestige. That's not to say that he is little known; he is signed to the Decca recording label, he led the great Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra between 1988 and 2004 and now he runs the Leipzig Gewandhaus. Other music directorships have been at the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi and the opera in Bologna. There's nothing less than first-rank about all of that. And yet, he has somehow, by dint of fewer recordings and lower emphasis on profile than some colleagues, often seemed less in the public eye than his peers in the "great conductors" set.
This is likely to change all that. There are few positions more in the public eye in Italy than music director of La Scala. Nevertheless, it feels right for him--and for them. Chailly is a force for good in the music world, a born opera conductor. Apparently, he is also close to La Scala's incoming superintendent Alexander Pereira. And those special relationships between music and executive directors can produce great things at great houses, as evidenced by the two Tonys (the just departed Sir Tony Hall and Sir Antonio Pappano) at Covent Garden. There are good times ahead, it seems.
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