MILAN — World-famous conductor Daniel Barenboim will take up the post of musical director at Italy's world renowned La Scala opera house from December until the end of 2016, the Milan theatre said on Thursday.
The Israeli-Argentinian musician will open the 2011-2012 season by directing Mozart's Don Giovanni, staged by Canadian Robert Carsen. Barenboim will spend 15 weeks a year at La Scala, where he is already principle guest conductor.
La Scala's former music director Riccardo Muti stepped down from the post in 2005 after 20 years following a blazing row over artistic differences with management and the position had remained vacant since then.
Since Muti's departure, Barenboim has held the honourary title of "Maestro of La Scala," producing at least two operas a year.
The Milan opera house's artistic director, Frenchman Stephane Lissner, said the theatre was pleased to strengthen further "a close relationship with one of the biggest orchestral directors of our time."
"In 2005, after the triumph of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the orchestra asked for Barenboim to be made musical director immediately. He turned us down and we created the Maestro title... making him part of the La Scala family," he said.
Milan mayor Giuliano Pisapia, who heads the La Scala foundation, said Barenboim's appointment "confirms once more that La Scala is an international reference for culture and music."
It is also hoped the Buenos Aires-born musician, who began playing the piano at just five years old and was married to the late cellist Jacqueline du Pre, will help La Scala continue to thrive, despite cuts to the arts.
"With Daniel Barenboim, La Scala today has one of the greatest musicians of our time, and in a moment of great confusion, of great crisis, he is a humanist who can bring us a lot through his ideas," Lissner said.
"He's also a director who is very interested in the theatre and is convinced that a big lyrical production should have the same standards for music as for the theatre. That's very, very important," he said.
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