Gilda Muti, a mother, wife, and passionate Neapolitan, naturally follows her husband when he moves to the Apulian port city of Molfetta. However, she wants her children to be born in Naples at all costs, shouldering the burden of a twelve-hour train journey herself – even in the midst of war when her fifth and last son comes in 1941. But this time she is unable to make it in time, and little Riccardo is born outside the city. The Neapolitan registrar turns out to be generous, however, and records the future maestro as the child of his home city. All five Muti brothers are highly musical, but Riccardo stands out in particular, showing great talent on the violin and piano. One day a professor tells him that he plays the piano like a conductor, and that it would be better for him to conduct straight away. When asked how, the professor answers: “Stand in front of an orchestra and do something. Something is sure to happen.” Riccardo doesn’t need to be told things twice: the result is that he never becomes a lawyer (as his parents had planned), but instead one of the most famous conductors of our time.
© Ulla Pilz, ORF - Radio Österreich 1


  • 1941 born as the son of a doctor in Naples, he soon turns out to be a musical prodigy. Studies in Naples (piano and literature) and Milan (conducting).

  • 1967 unanimously wins the Guido Cantelli conducting prize in Milan. Countless awards and honors follow, including two Grammys and the highest national honors in Italy, Spain, and Austria.

  • 1968 professional conducting debut at the Maggio Musicale in Florence; the soloist is Sviatoslav Richter. The same year he becomes principal conductor and music director of the festival.

  • 1971 debut at the Salzburg Festival. He is faithful not only to the Festival: there has not been a single year since in which he has not conducted the Vienna Philharmon-ic, and he has also regularly led the Vienna State Opera since 1973.

  • 1972–1982 Otto Klemperer’s successor as principal conductor of the Philharmonia Or-chestra London, 1980–1992 principal conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

  • 1986–2005 Music Director of La Scala; he departs on bad terms due to differences with the general manager. Muti has not shied away from conflict on other occasions, particularly in matters relating to period orchestras and Regietheater.

  • 2004 co-founder of the Luigi Cherubini Orchestra, which consists of highly talented young musicians from all over Italy; in 2015 the Riccardo Muti Opera Academy is also established.

  • Since 2010 Muti has been principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Did you know?

  • Since 1969 Riccardo Muti has been married to Christina Mazzavillani without scandal; the couple have two adult children and live in Ravenna. Chiara, their only daughter, is an actress who is married to French pianist David Fray.

  • When he wants to relax, Muti listens to the Beatles or works in the garden.

  • By his own admission, the maestro can neither live nor conduct without spaghetti; es-presso is also sacred to the Italian par excellence.

  • Muti conducted the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Concert for the fifth time in 2018, although he cannot dance a waltz.

  • Muti is not into glamor. He not only prefers a bicycle to a private jet, but views the con-ductor’s podium not as a center of power, but as a lonely island.

  • After a concert he is never satisfied, but always exhausted.

  • Muti is regarded as the quintessential Verdi conductor. But when asked about his fa-vorite composer, he names Mozart at the absolute top of his list.