The Italian Almanac

Riccardo Muti

Italian News - March 17

Hundreds of musicians, stage crew and other employees of Milan's La Scala opera house voted Wednesday for the resignation of music director Riccardo Muti in the latest episode in a labor dispute that has left the famed theater in turmoil.

Officials from the Communication Workers Union said about 1,000 members turned out for the vote in the theater, which was reopened only three months ago after an extensive renovation.

Unions are powerful in Italy and yield political and social weight, and the vote was aimed at cranking up the pressure on Muti to step down. While the vote, described by union officials as nearly unanimous, was another sour note in the flap, Muti is not strictly obliged to bow to their wishes.

The ill will stems from a decision by La Scala's board of directors to dismiss superintendent Carlo Fontana, who had a difficult relationship with Muti. Muti, 63, was music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1980-92 and has been music director at La Scala since the 1986-87 season.

Fontana was replaced by Mauro Meli, former director of La Scala's theatrical division, and union members are also demanding his resignation, the union officials said. The labor dispute has shut down several performances this season, and workers have pledged to strike for each scheduled premiere.