Rome’s opera house on Friday defended hiring conductor Daniele Gatti, who was fired by an Amsterdam-based orchestra last summer over sexual misconduct allegations.
Teatro dell’Opera di Roma spokesman Renato Bossa said that the theatre signed Gatti this week to a contract running through December 2021 as musical director because, in a country with “rule of law, one is innocent until a trial proves otherwise.” Still, Bossa termed the allegations “certainly very grave.”
Gatti has denied the allegations that triggered his firing by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
He conducted the Rome opera house’s season premiere, “Rigoletto,” earlier this week, the third straight year he has done so for the Italian capital’s theatre’s season opener.
The Rome opera theatre quoted Gatti as saying about his new role: “I am particularly happy to be able to intensify my work here and link myself to a theatre that has recently distinguished itself for the outstanding quality of its projects and the work of all the people involved in realizing them.”
But the theatre announced that the 57-year-old maestro had to skip Thursday’s performance due to a heart arrhythmia. Playing a role in the health setback could also have been “the strong emotions” Gatti felt when the theatre announced the signing to the audience on Tuesday, Bossa said.
He added that Gatti was feeling better and would conduct the orchestra, in the same Giuseppe Verdi work, on Sunday.
For several years, the Rome institution has been intent on improving its profile in a country where Milan’s La Scala reigns supreme in the opera world. It suffered a hard blow a few years ago when maestro Riccardo Muti, weary of union disputes, abruptly ended his collaboration with Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.
The theatre’s top executive, Carlo Fuortes said that hiring Gatti “will complete our plan to revive the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.”
Fuortes lauded Gatti’s “extraordinary artistic career” as well as the “reciprocal establishment of trust he has nurtured with the orchestra and the chorus.”
Earlier this year, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra said it had ended its affiliation with Gatti as chief conductor in the wake of a Washington Post story in which the conductor was “accused of inappropriate behaviour.” It also cited reports from women who came forward after the article’s publication. The orchestra said the developments “irreparably damaged the relationship of trust between the orchestra and the chief conductor.”
Gatti’s lawyer denounced the allegations as a “smear campaign” and said the maestro had asked his lawyers to “protect his reputation.” Gatti had become the Dutch orchestra’s chief conductor at the start of the 2016-2017 concert season.
The Milan-born Gatti has in the past been principal conductor of Rome’s Orchestra Dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and chief conductor of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Gatti was the third important conductor in the past year to lose his job over allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
Charles Dutoit resigned as artistic director and principal conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra after The Associated Press late last year reported sexual assault allegations against him. James Levine, the musical director emeritus of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, was fired after the company said an investigation had found evidence of sexual abuse and harassment. Both men denied any improper behaviour.
Frances D’Emilio is on twitter at www.twitter.com/fdemilio
Frances D’Emilio, The Associated Press