The Italian Almanac

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Daniel Harding

Italian News / Music - December 8

Daniel Harding scored a personal triumph and a standing ovation Wednesday after conducting Mozart's "Idomeneo" at the season opening of the famed La Scala opera house -- the first in 19 years without maestro Riccardo Muti. The 29-year-old British conductor got enthusiastic applause at the gala at the Milan theater, the so-called Temple of Bel Canto, which reopened exactly one year ago after nearly three years of renovations.

The singers also earned praise, including Australian tenor Steve Davislim (Idomeneo), soprano Camilla Tilling (Ilia) and Emma Bell (Elettra), all of whom received 12 minutes of applause and two curtain calls. Flowers cascaded from the balconies onto the stage at the end of the performance, perceived as the start of a new era at La Scala following the Muti age.

Harding was picked by new La Scala superintendent Stephane Lissner, the Frenchman who replaced Carlo Fontana in a major reshuffle at the Milan theater. Muti resigned as La Scala music director and favorite conductor last April after relations with the orchestra worsened.

Harding said he was exhausted after the three-hour performance. "I'm very satisfied. The orchestra was formidable and the singers in great form," the British maestro said. He praised the "fantastic" audience of La Scala as "silent when you play and enthusiastic at the end." Harding toasted with the singers and theater workers on the stage before meeting the media.