Herbert von Karajan, so goes the story, was hailing a taxi in Vienna. "Where to?" asked the driver. "Doesn't matter," replied the feared and foibled Austrian maestro. "They want me everywhere."
Replace Karajan's name with Riccardo Muti's and you get something of how sought-after the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's music director is in today's classical music world.
Both La Scala and Vienna, two of the world's preeminent opera companies, have standing invitations out to Muti, even though his days of suffering the slings and arrows of willful stage directors are over, he declares.
Plenty of major orchestras would love to engage him as well. But, as the Italian baton supremo approaches his 74th birthday in July, he is almost entirely restricting his conducting to the three orchestras he considers the finest in the world – the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic and, of course, the CSO, where his contract runs through August 2020. By then he will have served 10 years in the post.
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