The Italian and the Austrian President were among the lucky duckies that last night in Salzburg cheered the incandescent conducting (as Opera Chic's .aiff file can testify) by Riccardo Muti of Verdi's Otello.
36 years after Salzburg's most recent Otello, conducted by Herbie Von K., Muti whipped his Wiener into an orgiastic frenzy of sound, dark and burnished, feverish and relentless -- creating such unruly excitement in the audience that even famously mild-mannered Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, a classical music lover, told the media after the performance that he considers the Boito/Verdi work to be superior even to Don Giovanni! (in the President's defense, we have to remember that, in Salzburg, the other day ,Don Giovanni had been conducted by a very limp De Billy).
Muti's ovation wasn't apparently matched by the feeble cheering and occasional boos for the tenor (young, heavily made-up in an orangey glow -- everything's better than the old blackface, but still it looked pretty weak) Aleksandr Antonenko, hand-picked by Muti for that monster of an operatic role) and the director, Stephen Langridge (Phil's kid) who chose to create a single set, a stylized rusty vision of the castle that, at least in photographs, doesn't exactly look like much). Marina Poplavskaya, Carlos Alvarez (Jago), and our boy Stephen Costello elicited applause from the many VIPs and generally wealthy in the audience (Anna Netrebko in super-preggo state, her Ervino, and Gerard Depardieu, whose belly was apparently almost as prominent as Trebka's).
There was also among the VIPs an especially delighted US-educated Italian gentleman, dottor Francesco Ernani, GM of Opera di Roma who cannily managed to convince Muti to bring this very Otello to Rome on Dec. 6, exactly 24 hours before the prima at la Scala (Daniele Gatti's Don Carlo, with Giuseppe Filianoti and Barbara Frittoli and Ferruccio Furlanetto). Muti will also conduct an opera per season in Rome for the next 4 years.