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Subject: Great Moments in Opera: Muti Protests Arts Budget Cuts During a “Nabucco” in Rome
From: Alain Letort <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Alain Letort <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 9 Jan 2017 17:35:42 -0500
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Dear Listers,

The following video was made on Saturday 12 March 2011 at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera, 
during a performance of “Nabucco” marking the sesquicentennial of Italy’s reunification.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNWq2nEkNhc

Watch beginning at 1:12:50 when, during the applause for the chorus’s rendition of “Va, 
pensiero,” an audience member shouts “Viva l’Italia!” and Maestro Muti turns to the 
audience and invites them to protest against the Berlusconi government and its ruthless 
cuts in the arts budget by joining the chorus in an encore.  And everybody stands up, 
leaflets are thrown from the upper tiers and tricolor flags are waved, and the entire 
audience sings the chorus . . . almost perfectly !!!  And the choristers are in tears at the 
end !  Only in Italy can such a scene take place !  It is moments like these that 
demonstrate, in spite of all its travails, that Italy is still a great nation !  Being a great 
nation isn’t just about possessing more nuclear weapons and tanks and bombers than 
anyone else, it’s also, it’s primarily about what a nation has done to enrich the world 
artistically and spiritually, and that Italy has done in buckets.

Below is my personal transcript and translation of Maestro Muti’s remarks.  (I had to 
replay them at least two dozen times because sometimes some words were indistinct).
 
1:12:55
Audience member :   Viva l’Italia !!!

ITALIAN

Riccardo Muti :   Sì, io sono d’accordo sul “Viva l’Italia!”  (Applause, “bis!”)  
Assolutamente . . .(Applause, “bis!”)
Io no ho trent’anni (laughter), e quindi la mia vita l’ho fatta.  Ma sono molto — come 
italiano che gira in mondo — molto addolorato per quello che sta avvenendo.  Quindi, se 
io vi faccio alla vostra richiesta il bis del “Va, pensiero,” non lo faccio tanto, o solo, per 
ragioni patriottiche, ma in questa sera, mentre il coro cantava “O mia patria, sì bella e 
perduta” ho pensato che se noi uccidiamo la cultura su cui è fondata la storia dell’Italia, 
veramente sarà la nostra patria bella è perduta.
(Sustained applause and cheers.)
Intanto siccome stiamo in un clima molto italico e molto spesso Muti ha parlato ai stolti 
per tanti anni vorrei . . . facciamo un’eccezione, stiamo in casa nostra, no ?, nel teatro 
della capitale, siccome il coro l’ha cantato magnificamente e l’orchestra l’ha 
accompagnato benissimo, se volete unirvi anche voi, lo facciamo tutti insieme . . . 
(Applause)  A tempo, però !  (Laughter.)

ENGLISH

Riccardo Muti :   Yes, I agree with the “Viva l’Italia!”  (Applause, “bis!”)  Absolutely . . .
(Applause, “bis!”)
I’m not thirty any more (laughter), and therefore I’ve already made my life.  But I am 
very — as an Italian who travels all over the world — very grieved by what is going on..  
Therefore, if I’m acceding to your request to encore the “Va, pensiero,” I’m not doing it so 
much, or even solely, for patriotic reasons, but tonight, while the chorus was singing “O 
mia patria, sì bella e perduta,” I was thinking that if we murder the culture on which the 
history of Italy is based, then truly will our beautiful fatherland be lost.
(Sustained applause and cheers.)
However, since we are in a very italic [rather derisive word here] climate and Muti has 
had to speak with idiots [a reference to government ministers and top bureaucrats] for so 
many years, I would like . . . let’s make an exception, we are in our house, aren’t we ?, 
here in our capital’s theatre, and since the chorus has sung it so magnificently, and very 
well supported by the orchestra, if you too want to join in, let’s do it all together . . . 
(Applause)  But *in time* !  (Laughter.)

The entire incident was written up (with pictures) in the Rome edition of Italy’s newspaper 
of record, the “Corriere della Sera,” on 14 March 2011.  See 
http://roma.corriere.it/roma/notizie/arte_e_cultura/11_marzo_14/muti-nabucco-protesta-
cultura-cappelli-190217635491.shtml .

Cheers and all the best,

Alain

Alain Letort
Washington, D.C.

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