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Thread: Opinions on Riccardo Muti

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    Member Doc's Avatar
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    Default Opinions on Riccardo Muti


    So, yesterday I went to a local car boot sale and found the following seven opera CDs (and a mass) for £15. Each one was released on EMI Classics, is in wonderful condition and came complete with a hardly touched libretto. I couldn't resist, but I'm not at all familiar with the conductor Riccardo Muti. I'm not one to throw any old CD on my shelves, so while I listen, does anyone have anything to say about him and/or his style of conducting?

    Verdi: La Forza del Destino: Domingo / Freni / Zancanaro / Plishka
    Verdi: Messa da Requiem: Studer / Zajic / Pavarotti / Ramey
    Verdi: Aida: Cabelle / Domingo
    Verdi: Don Carlo: Pavarotti / Ramey / Dessi / Coni / Anisimov
    Verdi: Attila: Ramey / Studer / Schicoff / Zancanaro
    Verdi: Ernani: Domingo / Freni / Bruson / Ghiaurov
    Verdi: La Traviata: Scotto / Kraus / Bruson
    Verdi: Nabucco: Manguerra / Luchetti / Ghiaurov / Scotto / Obraztsova

    And as I'm not a huge opera afficionado (this is my first real foray into the genre) I'd also appreciate thoughts on the operas and performers themselves!
    Last edited by Doc; Jan-08-2014 at 17:25.
    "As I walk, and wait, and listen, I will often seek to find
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    Well, for your first real foray, it was difficult to get a better fit . Mr. Muti is a Verdi giant, a reference. Of course each one of those versions above have its ups and downs, but to start this is a great sample, and you will have plenty of time in the future to look for alternatives if you like. And the list of Verdian operas is fine too... Someone could suggest that perhaps the two missing ones from the popular trilogy ("Trovatore" and "Rigoletto") would have to be included, as well as "Otello", before caring for "Nabucco" or "La forza del destino".... but again, a nice bunch of operas and versions, and a (very) fair price. Enjoy!.

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    He's a great conductor and living legend, but he has one nasty habit of working with Domingo in projects where Domingo doesn't, IMO, belong - I'd strongly disrecommend his La Forza and Aida for this reason. If I were you, I'd start with Nabucco, which is great, even if Scotto is controversial cast.
    Last edited by Aramis; Jan-08-2014 at 17:44.

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    Senior Member Bellinilover's Avatar
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    I'm only really well-acquainted with Muti's MACBETH (EMI, 1976, with Milnes and Cossotto), but from that and from opinions I've read his conducting style is a bit...rigid, I suppose. In the MACBETH it sounds a little as though the singers are dropping their phrases into place to suit Muti's "concept" -- which is a brilliant one, I admit. I like the recording very much, and I can hear that Muti is a great conductor of Verdi. But ideally I like opera performances to sound like performances and not like an analysis or a dissection of the score.

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    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bellinilover View Post
    I'm only really well-acquainted with Muti's MACBETH (EMI, 1976, with Milnes and Cossotto), but from that and from opinions I've read his conducting style is a bit...rigid, I suppose. In the MACBETH it sounds a little as though the singers are dropping their phrases into place to suit Muti's "concept" -- which is a brilliant one, I admit. I like the recording very much, and I can hear that Muti is a great conductor of Verdi. But ideally I like opera performances to sound like performances and not like an analysis or a dissection of the score.
    I agree. He tends to be a little rigid and fast for my taste. In opera anyway.
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

    "Life's a long song, but the tune ends too soon for us all." Ian Anderson lyric

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Hamlet

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    Senior Member Bellinilover's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Itullian View Post
    I agree. He tends to be a little rigid and fast for my taste. In opera anyway.
    That's it exactly. I like conducting that's "elastic and flexible."

    Edited to add: I think I read once where someone said that a conductor's job is "to get out of the way" of the singers. Probably that's taking it too far, but I think there's some wise counsel there, especially when it comes to bel canto opera.
    Last edited by Bellinilover; Jan-08-2014 at 22:02.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Muti does tend to be rather rigid and inflexible in opera from what I've heard. However, no doubting his personality.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Content yourself that these operas and the Requiem for 15 pounds is a stupendous bargain!

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    Rest assured - I spent many an evening at La Scala in the company of Maestro Muti and Verdi.
    I would rate him as one of the very best conductors of this genre.
    I also saw many of his concerts in London when he was chief of the Philharmonia.
    Don't take much notice of what others are saying, if you are new to opera and Verdi, then you have really hit lucky.
    Only people who have been following these operas for a long time and have built up personal likes or dislikes can try and carp about this or that recording.
    You have actually managed to find very good examples of all of these operas and one will have to travel far to find more
    faithfull performances than these.
    Enjoy them.
    I envy you starting off with a list of operas such as these.

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    Muti is a true 'maestro concertatore', he prepares everything in advance for the orchestra, and for the singers, to ensure a performance as flawless and exciting as possible.

    He has a tendency to respect what's written on the score, and not giving up to 'performance traditions'. Well, this is a choice, and usually the right option, just do what the composer wanted to do. Especially for Verdi, where we have usually enough information to discern.

    He wrote a nice, and short, book on Verdi for the bicentennial, that is a fine reading. However, I'm not sure if it has been published in English (the title is "Verdi, the Italian: that is, in music, our roots":


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    Quote Originally Posted by Bellinilover View Post
    I've read his conducting style is a bit...rigid, I suppose.
    Quote Originally Posted by Itullian View Post
    He tends to be a little rigid and fast for my taste. In opera anyway.
    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Muti does tend to be rather rigid and inflexible in opera from what I've heard.
    Thanks for the heads up! Knowing this, I'll be sure to explore different versions if these fail to click.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pip View Post
    I would rate him as one of the very best conductors of this genre. You have actually managed to find very good examples of all of these operas and one will have to travel far to find more faithfull performances than these.
    This is appreciated. As an opera neophyte, it's good to know I've picked something that other people hold in high regard. My main worry was that I'd bought something that I would inevitably feel the need to replace! In the age of the internet and Youtube, such things shouldn't be a problem, but this offer was too good to pass up in favour of extensive research.

    Quote Originally Posted by schigolch View Post
    He wrote a nice, and short, book on Verdi for the bicentennial, that is a fine reading. However, I'm not sure if it has been published in English (the title is "Verdi, the Italian: that is, in music, our roots".
    Thanks for bringing that book to my attention, and for your very helpful first reply. Unfortunately I can only seem to find it in Italian, but perhaps in the future they'll translate it into English!
    Last edited by Doc; Jan-09-2014 at 19:11.
    "As I walk, and wait, and listen, I will often seek to find
    When it was I knew that garden in an age long left behind
    " - H. P. Lovecraft

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    Muti is doing now a great job in Rome. This is a Simon Boccanegra, complete in youtube:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=BraVrkJqrMc

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    He knows how to whip up excitement!
    Facts don't care about your feelings.

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    You hit the motherlode with this purchase. Either the Krause/Scotto Traviata or the Verdi Requiem is worth the price alone! This is a good selection and an excellent place to start.

    As someone who has heard Muti conduct in concert and in opera, I'd say he is a living treasure. He and Anthony Pappano are the two greatest living conductors of Verdi. IMO Muti is not rigid in his tempi -one simply cannot do that with Verdi's long lined, arcing phrases and make musical sense - but neither is he indulgant. A good thing in my book.

    For a master class in phrasing and legato, for technique in service to expressivity, look no further than the aforementioned Traviata disc. I came late to Verdi, and this disc was instrumental (pardon the pun) to my epiphany. As always in Verdi, the singers - not the orchestra - carry the musical line; Kraus and Scotto are both outstanding on this recording.

    Just listen to these discs and enjoy. If you like what you hear I second the rec for Rigoletto. I envy you your journey!
    Last edited by Rackon; Jan-10-2014 at 08:08.

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    Junior Member starlightexp's Avatar
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    I've seen him conduct three Verdi pieces: Aida, Otello and Macbeth and all three were quite thrilling. I have to say that I am one that likes the criticalness of what he does. The way he rigidly sticks to the score and composer notes is something I commend him for. His recordings are ones that I would choose to listen to first so that I know what the piece was composed like before going off into performer land and finding out which recordings are great interpretations of what was composed. The CSO Otello that he did just came out on CD and is so very worth the price for the sound quality alone.

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