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Italy's Chailly to replace Barenboim at La Scala

'Splendid news' says Milan mayor

10 December, 18:33
Italy's Chailly to replace Barenboim at La Scala (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Milan, December 10 - Italy's Riccardo Chailly will replace star conductor Daniel Barenboim at the helm of Milan's world-famous La Scala opera house, Milan Mayor Giuliano Pisapia announced Tuesday.

Chailly will become principal conductor when Barenboim ends his stint as musical director on January 1, 2015, and will go on to become musical director two years later, on January 1, 2017. "It's splendid news" said Pisapia after a meeting of the La Scala board.

"We are happy and proud," added the mayor, whose council has some say in the running of the opera house, which was inaugurated in 1778.

The announcement ended months of speculation over the successor to renowned Israeli-Argentinian pianist and conductor Barenboim.

Chailly, 60, is currently the chief conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, a post he has held since 2005. He has extended his contract there until 2020 so he will be commuting to and from Milan.

The Milan-born Chailly, whose recent recording of a collection of Brahms with the Leipzig orchestra has music buffs slavering at the mouth, will have to deal with long-running union troubles at the northern Italian city's venerated institution, as well as an audience that is famously hard to please. The new La Scala production of La Traviata was booed at the weekend by the 'loggionisti', the self-styled protectors of the opera house's high standards. This year has seen a spate of strikes and disputes with disgruntled singers and producers, in accordance with the best traditions of the often tempestuous opera house.

The conductor's Milanese background should stand him in good stead, however. Another point in his favour is that he served as assistant to Claudio Abbado when the star Italian conductor was in charge of La Scala in the early 1980s.

Chailly was born in Milan in 1953 into a musical family and studied composition with his father, Luciano Chailly.

He studied at the music conservatories in Perugia and Milan and later studied conducting with Franco Ferrara. In his youth, Chailly also played the drums in a rhythm-and-blues band.

At age 20, in 1982, Chailly became assistant conductor to Claudio Abbado at La Scala, where he had made his conducting debut in 1978.

From 1982 to 1988, Chailly was chief conductor of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and from 1983 to 1986 principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. From 1986 to 1993 he led the Teatro Comunale of Bologna.

Chailly made his debut with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam in 1985. From 1988 to 2004 he was chief conductor of Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (KCO), where he really made a name for himself.

Chailly dedicated himself to performances of the standard symphonic tradition, notably Anton Bruckner and Gustav Mahler, with which the orchestra distinguished itself.

He also significantly broadened the repertoire with 20th-century and contemporary music.

Among notable projects, Chailly led the 1995 Mahler Festival that celebrated the 100th anniversary of Mahler's first concert at the Concertgebouw. Chailly also conducted opera in Amsterdam, both at the KCO's annual Christmas Matinee concert as well as at De Nederlandse Opera (DNO), where his final opera production in Amsterdam was DNO's staging of Giuseppe Verdi's Don Carlo.

In 1986 Chailly conducted the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig for the first time, at the Salzburg Festival, after Herbert von Karajan had introduced Chailly to the orchestra.

His next guest-conducting appearance with the Leipzig orchestra was in 2001, and after an additional appearance, he was named the 19th Kapellmeister of the orchestra.

In August 2005 he officially became the chief conductor of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and general music director (GMD) of Oper Leipzig. His initial Leipzig contract was to run through to 2010.

In May 2008, he extended his contract with the Gewandhausorchester to 2015. However, he concurrently resigned as GMD of the Oper Leipzig, reportedly after conflict over the hiring of personnel without his consultation.

In June 2013, the Gewandhausorchester and Chailly agreed on a further extension of his contract through 2020.

His projects in Leipzig have included an international Mahler festival in May 2011, featuring 10 different orchestras.

Chailly became the first music director of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi (La Verdi) in 1999, and held the post until 2005. He now has the title of Conductor Laureate with La Verdi.

Chailly has an exclusive recording contract with Decca, and his recordings with Decca include complete cycles of the symphonies of Brahms, Gustav Mahler and Anton Bruckner. Other notable achievements include recordings of Stravinsky, Varese and Hindemith. More recently, with the Gewandhaus Orchestra, Chailly has led recordings of Felix Mendelssohn, Bach, Johannes Brahms, the Robert Schumann symphonies in the re-orchestrations by Gustav Mahler, and a complete cycle of the Beethoven symphonies. His past recordings with American orchestras included Shostakovich: The Dance Album with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps with the Cleveland Orchestra.

La Scala announced in October that Barenboim would cease to be musical director of La Scala as of January 1, 2015 instead of January 1, 2017, as previously foreseen.

The last La Scala performance under Barenboim's direction is scheduled to be Ludwig van Beethoven's Fidelio, which will inaugurate the performance season on December 7, 2014.