Riccardo Muti is to head the Opera di Roma from December 2010, following an agreement reached in Salzburg with the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno.
Under the arrangement the conductor will put on two opera productions per year as well as concerts. The Rome position is intended to be a principal role for Muti, alongside his work as musical director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, an official statement said.
Muti, 68, stepped down as musical director of La Scala, Milan, in the spring of 2005, a position he held for almost 20 years, following an acrimonious dispute involving the theatre’s then general manager, musicians and unions. While La Scala has made overtures to woo Muti back over the last four years, it was the Rome house, in the person of Alemanno and broadcaster Bruno Vespa, a leading official of the opera company, who succeeded in convincing the conductor to accept a full-time post, one which has already raised comment on possible competition between Milan and Rome.
The Opera di Roma opened in 1880 as the Teatro Costanzi, seating more than 2200, and its history includes the world premieres of Cavalleria Rusticana and Tosca. It has undergone several modifications and the present 1950s building with its strikingly modern frontage seats 1600. The house prospered particularly during the early years of the 20th century, and gave acclaimed performances of such important works as Turandot and Parsifal. From 2001 to 2008 the musical director and chief conductor was Gianluigi Gelmetti, who on stepping down nominated Muti as his preferred successor.
Under Muti's tenure there will be performances of Idomeneo and Nabucco, following a programme already decided, before Muti adds his own stamp to the company's output. There has also been talk of building up the orchestra, and of redeveloping the theatre.
Charles Searson, Gramophone Italy correspondent