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Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts 2011
Riccardo Muti (Naples, Italy, 1941), studied piano at the San Pietro a Majella Music Conservatory, Naples, and composition and conducting at the “Giuseppe Verdi” Conservatory in Milan. After winning the Guido Cantelli Prize in 1967, his career became increasingly international in scope. He has conducted the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (1968-1980) and the Philharmonia Orchestra, London (1972), where he later became music director (1979-1982). Between 1980 and 1992, he conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra. During this period, he was appointed music director of the Teatro alla Scala, Milan (1986-2005) and, in 1987, the principal conductor of La Scala Philharmonic created in 1982. Since 2010, he has been the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Under his baton, the Scala travelled to Germany, Russia, Spain, France and Japan. Muti has conducted opera productions at the most important international venues. In 1988, he conducted Verdi’s Requiem at Nôtre Dame Cathedral. In 1992, he conducted La Scala ensembles in the Frankfurt Opera, La Traviata at the 1995 Salzburg Festival and opened the opera season with The Magic Flute. In 1996, he conducted an extraordinary concert marking the 50th anniversary of the remodelling of La Scala and, two years later, won great acclaim with his rendering of Wagner’s Twilight of the Gods. In 1999, he premiered an until-then-unknown Prelude by Giacomo Puccini with La Scala Philharmonic at the Church of San Frediano de Lucca (Tuscany). That same year, he gave a benefit concert to raise funds following the fire at the Gran Teatro del Liceo in Barcelona. In 2000, he conducted the Vienna Court Chapel at the closing mass of the Jubilee of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, held in St Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican.
During his time at La Scala, he also brought to light the Neapolitan repertoire of the 18th century and of lesser-known composers such as Gluck, Cherubini, Spontini and Poulenc and his Dialogues des Carmélites, a production with which he obtained the Abbiati Prize awarded by the Italian Association of Music Critics. In 2004, he conducted Antonio Europa riconosciuta at the solemn reopening of La Scala after its renovation. That same year, he founded the “Luigi Cherubini” Youth Orchestra, formed by young musicians selected by an international board from among 600 instrumentalists from all over Italy. In 2006, the Grosses Festspielhaus of Salzburg invited him to conduct the opening concert of the celebrations marking the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth, thus consolidating his links with the Vienna Philharmonic. Furthermore, within the framework of the Pentecost Festival founded by von Karajan, the “Luigi Cherubini” Youth Orchestra participated in a project aimed at recovering the musical, operatic and religious heritage of 18th-century Naples. In 2015, Maestro Muti’s desire to dedicate himself even more to the training of young musicians materialized in the creation of the Italian Opera Academy, a project aimed at transmitting his own experience and teaching to young conductors, assistant conductors and opera singers.
Guest conductor of the prestigious Salzburg Festival and of the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras since 1971, Muti has received honorary doctorates from twenty universities and is a member of the Academies of Santa Cecilia (Rome), Luigi Cherubini (Florence) and the Philharmonic of Bologna. Knight Grand Cross of the Italian Republic and of the Order of the British Empire, he is Commander of the Order of Malta and has been awarded the French Legion of Honour and the Russian Order of Friendship. He was awarded the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold for his services to the Austrian Republic in 2021. He is a member of honour of the Wiener Staatsoper and an Honorary Citizen of Milan, Florence and Ravenna (Italy), Philadelphia (USA) and Sidney (Australia). Among other distinctions, he has received the Wolf Foundation Arts Prize (Israel, 2000), the 2010 Musician of the Year award from the US magazine Musical America and the 2011 Birgit Nilsson Prize from the Swedish Academy of Music, as well as the Praemium Imperiale for Music awarded by the Japan Art Association (2018).
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