Italian maestro Riccardo Muti is having an incredible year. After winning two Grammys from a hospital bed where he was recovering from major surgery, the classical conductor is making headlines again.
On Saturday, Maestro Muti openly criticized the Italian government for cutting the culture budget. The conductor only agreed to lead the chorus in an encore of “Va’ pensiero” if the crowd would join him in singing along in support of arts and culture. He was performing at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome as a part of Italy’s celebration of 150 year of unification.
While criticizing the state’s financial woes, Muti is now celebrating a major monetary windfall. Organizers announced that Maestro Muti is the next recipient of the Birgit Nilsson Prize. The $1 million prize is the largest award in classical music. Muti is expected to accept the prize on October 13, 2011- becoming only the second honoree since the reward was established in 2005.