Conductor Gianluigi Gelmetti has announced that he is stepping down in 2008 as music director at the Opera di Roma when his contract expires in 2008. The Italian capital's house is, after La Scala, the best-funded and most prestigious of Italy's 14 teatri lirici (fully chartered major opera houses).
Gelmetti, who will be 61 in September, was named chief conductor of the Opera di Roma in 2001; according to the Italian news agency ADN Kronos, he has been conducting at the theater since 1973. In 2004 he took over from Edo de Waart as chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra; he has also served as music director of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony (1989-98) and the Monte Carlo Philharmonic (1990-92).
More notable than his statement about his own future, however, was Gelmetti's pronouncement about the future of his job: he publicly urged the Rome house's management — and, by extension, the local and national governments — to hire Riccardo Muti as his successor. Both ADN Kronos and ANSA quoted an interview with Gelmetti that appeared in the newspaper Il Messaggero on July 13. "I have this one ambition, this one hope," said Gelmetti (as translated by ANSA), "that I can leave the fruit of all this collective hard work in the best possible hands, those of Riccardo Muti."
Widely considered one of the foremost conductors in the world today, Muti was music director at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan from 1985 to 2005, when he quit after an extensively reported series of battles with the house's general manager, Carlo Fontana, and rumored discontent among La Scala staff and musicians. (The affair cost Fontana his own job shortly afterwards.)
Asked last week about the possibility of his taking the Rome post, Muti gave a pointed non-response. "I cannot answer questions about something I know nothing about," ANSA quoted him as saying, "Nobody has said anything or proposed anything." According to the news agency's July 18 report, the conductor acknowledged that he had been informed about Gelmetti's statement and that he is a friend of Walter Veltroni, the mayor of Rome. Yet he went on to say, "But that doesn't mean anything. I'm also a friend of [Venice mayor] Massimo Cacciari, who I'm sure would be happy to have me in his city."